Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weighing in on the CIO debate

There is probably no topic that separates parents and contributes to mommy wars like sleep training. I've been pretty outspoken about my dislike of the cry it out approach in the past and really, I'm still not a fan.

That being said, I've had a bit of a change of heart these past few months--partly because I'm living in a less-than-ideal baby sleeping situation currently and partly because I realize that families are doing their very best and could use as much encouragement as possible. Also, I'm starting to realize that "cry it out" really does seem to be a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" sort of dilemma. As we've been facing our own sleep dilemmas, I've been doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking. Thus far, here are the arguments for and against CIO that seem legitimate (in my mind).

  • CIO enables the baby or young child to learn the important skill of going to sleep unaided. Lack of this skill may result in years of parental involvement in aiding a child to go to sleep and/or issues with insomnia later in life.
  • CIO often results in more sleep overall and more consolidated sleep as the child is able to return to sleep unaided. Lack of sleep and consolidated sleep has been linked to lower IQ scores, less empathy, behavioral problems, and ADHD.
  • Parents are able to get the sleep they need to be understanding, empathetic, patient, and have fun with their children.
  • CIO may weaken parent/child attachment, teach child that they cannot trust their parents and/or environment. This may result in less attachment promoting behaviors including less empathy and behavioral problems.
  • CIO has been linked with brain damage, lower IQ scores, and ADHD.
  • CIO may cause unhealthy fears of sleep and/or the dark.
  • CIO may cause a parent to lose trust in their baby's cues and therefore be less understanding, empathetic, patient, etc.
Anyone else see a major dilemma here? Basically, if you CIO you're destroying your child's life and if you don't CIO you're destroying your child's life...and most of the evidence points to the exact same emotional/behavioral/societal problems. Blast.

Here's what I think deep down inside. I don't think there is any one right answer.  There really is no way to quantitatively or qualitatively measure the affects of CIO, or lack thereof. However, there are a few well-established theories that most scientists and doctors agree on:

  • Babies under 12 weeks of age cannot self-soothe (Weissbluth). Therefore, it would make sense that there could be some negative emotional/psychological/sociological affects of allowing a newborn to CIO.
  • It is impossible to spoil a child in the first year of life (Erickson). (note: I'm not suggesting that parents should NOT sleep train in the first year of life. Just that there cannot be any "spoiling" if parents choose not to do so during the first 12 months).
  • Accumulative sleep deprivation can be physically and mentally detrimental to both children and their parents.
Beyond these points, I feel that most points used to sell or protest the CIO approach to sleep training are purely conjecture. Whatever side of the fence you fall on probably has more to do with your personal preferences, beliefs, and intuition.

On that last point--intuition--I just want to make mention that because of my personal spiritual beliefs and faith, I feel that parents, and only the parents, can receive personal revelation for their child. Maybe this is a bit personal, but I feel that the choice to, not to, how, when, where to sleep train, is something that should be made a matter of intense thought and prayer. It's important for parents to know and study their options, make a decision that feels right based on their family's individual circumstances at that time, and then take the matter to the Lord. Only then parents will have confirmation from the only True Source as to the best course of action for their family. I feel that if this were the way that all parents went about making decisions for their families, then maybe all of the mommy wars on this subject could stop. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child

I'm on a quest to finish all of these book reviews, so please bear with me. This book was one that I read a while ago, about six months ago. Katie Allison Granju has done a marvelous job of compiling research for her book about attachment parenting. This was another "appeal to the nerd" book because, again, tons of quotes from doctors, parents, anthropologists, child development specialists, psychologists, etc.

This is definitely a book I would recommend to those who already are considering an "attachment parenting" lifestyle for them and their families rather than those who are being introduced to it for the first time (I'd recommend Dr. Sears's The Baby Book in those cases), mostly because of the passionate way she talks about attachment parenting (i.e. calling a crib a "baby cage" and carrying babies around in "baby buckets" such as car seats, swings, etc.). It would probably be a little much for an attachment parenting investigator. However, she does cover some parenting decision that aren't covered very thoroughly in The Baby Book including choices about circumcision, cloth diapering, how to choose a childcare provider or pediatrician, and extended breastfeeding.  They're touched on in The Baby Book, but Granju goes into quite a bit of detail about these decisions.

If I was to have every mother read one chapter of this book, it would be the section on breastfeeding. She dispels myths about milk production (i.e. breasts need to "build up" milk so that baby has enough to eat, schedule feeding vs. cue feeding, and pumping as a way to increase milk production) and unloads a plethora of research about the benefits of breastfeeding. However, she also acknowledges that in a small percentage of cases, some women are physically unable to breastfeed, usually due to a medical problem (loss of too much blood during child birth, a hormonal imbalance, extreme stress, etc) and in these cases gives suggestion on how to "nurse" your bottle fed baby. I really liked how she addressed that breastfeeding is much more than the milk, it's a relationship, and that no matter what, a parent can have that relationship with their child.

A second "recommended chapter" would be the chapter on baby carriers. Again, there are a lot more types now than there were when this book was published, but she goes into the pros and cons of the basic carrier types (sling, front carrier, back carrier) and how to choose a baby carrier that is best suited for your needs.

Though she is quite zealous, she is very thorough and well thought-out. For example, I was on the fence about circumcising future sons, but Granju's section on circumcision (how it's unnecessary, the benefits of an intact penis, pain experienced during and after circumcision, etc.) certainly influenced me. Also, she includes literally hundreds of resources for parents including support groups, carrier types and manufacturers, breastfeeding help, and further reading. Since her book was published in 1999, I would love it if she revised and updated this book to include a "best of" list of resources since, obviously, the advent of the internet has significantly increased a parent's resources.

So, if you're curious about attachment parenting, opt for The Baby Book or Dr. Sears's The Attachment Parenting Book (it's more or less the "getting attached" section of The Baby Book with some added information). If you're pretty sure attachment parenting is the route for you and you want some added information about the benefits thereof, check out Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child by Katie Allison Granju.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spoiled is what happens to milk

It always makes me sad to hear someone say that I'm spoiling my child by holding him too much, by rocking him at night, by letting him sleep beside me, or by staying home with him. It makes me sad because spoiled is such a rotten word. It means that you have failed, it means that the product is of no use, that it's bad, that it's a waste.  Like that spoiled milk in the refrigerator--it's disgusting and unappealing.

But I don't believe it.  You see, spoiled is what happens to something that has been left alone too long. Something that did not serve its purpose. Something that has been forgotten. Something you didn't care about enough to focus your attention on it.  Something that will never be what it could have become.

And the same is with "spoiled" children.  When we began our journey as parents, I wondered if our high-touch style of parenting would spoil him. And then I thought, "what do I think of when I think of a spoiled child?"  I think of children who have everything they want-- every toy they asked for, never have to help around the home, and can do whatever they please without considering the consequences of those choices.  But I don't think those things are love.  I've never known a child to be spoiled with hugs, kisses, closeness, contact, holding, or cuddles.  In fact, when it comes to what we think of as "spoiling," it's in large part things.  Things that have been used in place of love, time, and attention.

And so, if love be spoils, then I give them. But surely my child will not be forgotten. He will not be tossed aside.  He will not be made useless.  I'm on a personal mission as part of my "have a plan," to spend more time loving, comforting, cuddling, holding, kissing, and being with my child. Maybe, one step at a time, I can help him see that things are not the answer--love and people are.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review Three in a Bed: The Benefits of Sleeping with Your Baby

I read this book a few months ago and didn't get around to reviewing it because of my silly space bar dilemma. So, here goes.

I really enjoyed reading Three in a Bed. It definitely appealed to the nerd within me as it had literally hundreds of quotes from cultural anthropologists, psychologists, medical doctors, professors, historical treatises on parenting, and the #1 experts--real parents.  There was a quote on almost every single page pointing to the benefits of sleeping with your baby, babywearing, forgoing cry-it-out sleep training, breastfeeding, etc.  It is written by Deborah Jackson, British mother of three, all of whom co-slept with her and her husband.

Jackson held traditional views about where a baby should sleep--in his crib, in his own room--until reading The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost by Jean Liedorff.  In a section of Liedorff's book, she speaks of her experience one night sleeping in the jungle among the natives of South America.  At one point, all of the sleepers were awakened, one told a joke, they all laughed, and then went immediately back to sleep.  There were no sleep troubles and every person was able to be roused, awakened, and fall back asleep without any problems whatsoever.  In her study of this same group of natives, she found that within their culture, families slept together rather than separately, as is the custom in most of Western society.  She concluded that a lot of our sleep problems in the West--from insomnia to general tiredness--have been created by our "laboratory style" sleep conditions including lights out, comfortable bed, quietness, and undisturbed sleep. As such, these laboratory sleep conditions may, in fact, be creating sleep problems rather than preventing them.  And so, Jackson decided in the final weeks of pregnancy with her first child, to get rid of their assembled crib and bring Baby to bed with her and her husband.

Throughout the book, Jackson addresses a myriad of issues that face the co-sleeping family including the typical concerns about SIDS, overlaying, and general safety.  She also addresses practical matters such as sexual intimacy between husband and wife (which, was one part of the book that I didn't really catch her fire.  She basically subscribes to the thought that it's not that big of a deal if Baby is there, awake or asleep, and that it may even be healthy for babies and very young children to be privy to sexual exchanges between parents.  Not really my cup of tea, personally but whatever floats your boat); how to wean from the family bed when desired; as well as the emotional, health, sociological, and psychological benefits to co-sleeping.

My personal favorite section was her chapter entitled "Nomads and Nannies" where she examines parenting practices across many cultures.  She dispels the belief that all "uncivilized" and non-Western cultures are high-touch, co-sleeping, and nurturing.  Instead, she gives example after example of gentle parenting practices in some cultures, and how they, in turn, produce a culture characterized as gentle, meek, and kind.  In contrast, she gives mention to aggressive cultures that are highly disciplined, leave young babies to cry excessively (at one point, she talks about a culture that swaddles their babies and put them in a hanging basket on the wall except for when they are permitted to eat or to be changed), and who do not nurture and hold their babies.  Jackson suggests that perhaps our aggressive Western culture spawns from low-touch, overly disciplined parenting practices.  I think that's a little simplistic, but definitely some food for thought.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who has considered co-sleeping in their family.  I do wish she had included a little more information about how to handle a few of the issues we're currently facing in our co-sleeping situation--i.e. Mr. Baby Bed Hog and how to prevent my arms from falling asleep when they're trying to avoid Mr. Baby Bed Hog.  Again, I didn't agree or buy everything she had to say but overall, I found it to be very informative, enlightening, and thought-provoking book.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Happiest Mom Challenge: Have a Plan

How did your month of "taking the easy way out" go?  I know for me I actually found it pretty liberating.  Here are some of the ways that I took the easy way out this month:

  • I scaled back my advent calendar. I had all of these high hopes of sewing an advent calendar with little pockets to hold strips of paper for an activity to do every day.  And then I decided that was too much work and decided to just make little envelopes out of wrapping paper and wrote on the inside of them.  SO much easier.
  • I decided to only tackle a chore or two a day.  Every time I have these high hopes of cleaning the entire house at once, I just end up disappointed.  As long as the laundry, dishes, and perhaps another task for the day are accomplished, then I think I'm doing pretty well!
  • I finally started planning leftovers into our meal schedule. For the past few months, I've been making our meal calendar with a new meal (and usually a brand new recipe) every day.  And then it started to become a burden to get the leftovers gone. So, I just started making a little bit extra food for our meal and actually plan on having it be supper again the next day.  The variety has gone downhill a bit but our fridge (and my sanity) is thanking me.
  • I gave up and made flip charts with all of the words for the songs in our Primary program. I had been working like crazy to help the children memorize the songs really well.  But on the day of, I realized they still weren't quite there yet. I figured it was more important that the parents could hear the words and that the kids felt confident than it was to show off their memorization skills.
  • I chose "Have a Plan" for this month's The Happiest Mom challenge. 
You see, Brennan and I have just started working through Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  And well, if there's anything that needs a plan, it's finances.  We've been working pretty hard for the past couple weeks and so I decided that I'd might as well make it my challenge for this month--have a plan.

I'm a dreamer. I frequently think about how I want things to turn out--my kids, my body, my marriage, my finances, how I spend my time, etc.  But getting those dreams to happen requires planning and, more importantly, follow-through.  I would even say that I'm an "okay" planner.  Follow through...not so much.  I've discovered that what I really need to have a plan, and a good plan at that, is one that works well for me.   That's where this whole Dave Ramsey thing came in.  A friend lent us the book, it made sense, and it had a plan, right there, for me, that I know works. Ah-ha!

Obviously "have a plan" doesn't just pertain to finances.  Here are some of the other areas of "have a plan" that I'm hoping to adopt more firmly into my life this month.

  • compile and use a family binder
  • work through some of my "craft debt"
  • find a way to make daily scripture study and daily exercise a more consistent part of my life
  • get me, and Hyrum, onto a more consistent daily routine
Will you join me on my adventure?  Do you have plans, or are you in need of a plan?  What are some of the areas of "have a plan" that you want to work on this month?

Happy planning!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Breaking the mould of the label

I'm sure a lot of you have seen a lot of the I'm a Mormon videos on YouTube and mormon.org.  I think what I like the most about the videos (and what is surely the purpose behind the campaign), is that they show that there is no one way to be a Mormon.  Outside of basic doctrines, Mormons are about as different from one another as can be, and that's okay.  Or at least it should be.

It's no secret that I've built my Mom-denity around the philosophies of attachment parenting.  For the most part, I've gladly embraced the label.  But sometimes I find myself feeling a little anxious.   "Am I holding my baby enough?", "Is our breastfeeding relationship successful enough?", "Should I really enjoy night feedings more than a good night's sleep?", and other questions.

As I've been thinking more and more about my challenge to "take the easy way out," I realize that I've lost track of what my parenting philosophies really are.  I would say that I definitely still fit the bill of the "attachment parenting mama" but from time to time I seem to lose focus as to what attachment parenting is really all about--making choices that bring you closer to your children so you will know how to be the best parent possible for your individual child(ren).  

I love babywearing and bedsharing, breastfeeding and bonding.  But maybe it's okay for me to say, "okay, bedsharing was great! Now it's not working for us any more."  Or, "babywearing is fantastic but right now, I'd prefer we go for a walk with the stroller rather than the carrier," or whatnot.

Whether you're an AP mama or whatever, it's good to remember that we can be who we are, strive to become better and better, and don't have to fit some pre-defined label as to what that should be.  Maybe that's just "taking the easy way out," but I'm okay with that.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sleep...more than training.

I'm sure a lot of you have seen a lot of the I'm a Mormon videos on YouTube and mormon.org.  I think what I like the most about the videos (and what is surely the purpose behind the campaign), is that they show that there is no one way to be a Mormon.  Outside of basic doctrines, Mormons are about as different from one another as can be, and that's okay.  Or at least it should be.

It's no secret that I've built my Mom-denity around the philosophies of attachment parenting.  For the most part, I've gladly embraced the label.  But sometimes I find myself feeling a little anxious.   "Am I holding my baby enough?", "Is our breastfeeding relationship successful enough?", "Should I really enjoy night feedings more than a good night's sleep?", and other questions.

As I've been thinking more and more about my challenge to "take the easy way out," I realize that I've lost track of what my parenting philosophies really are.  I would say that I definitely still fit the bill of the "attachment parenting mama" but from time to time I seem to lose focus as to what attachment parenting is really all about--making choices that bring you closer to your children so you will know how to be the best parent possible for your individual child(ren).  

I love babywearing and bedsharing, breastfeeding and bonding.  But maybe it's okay for me to say, "okay, bedsharing was great! Now it's not working for us any more."  Or, "babywearing is fantastic but right now, I'd prefer we go for a walk with the stroller rather than the carrier," or whatnot.

Whether you're an AP mama or whatever, it's good to remember that we can be who we are, strive to become better and better, and don't have to fit some pre-defined label as to what that should be.  Maybe that's just "taking the easy way out," but I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh child, please sleep!

Hyrum's sleep (or lack thereof) has become a bit of an obsession for me these past few weeks.  I've waffled back and forth about what to do.  One moment all I want to do is hold him and show him that I'm here for him in what is clearly a very hard time for him (sleep regression, teething, a cold--all at once, bleh!) and sometimes I find myself frustrated so I just need five minutes away to collect myself and end up ignoring my little guy's cries for that time.  Oh what to do, what to do.

Yeah, I still don't have the answer but here are a few questions/thoughts I keep having:

1) A baby cannot manipulate.  It's impossible in the first year of life so at least, no matter what I do, I can remember that this isn't a character flaw or anything.  I haven't screwed him up and turned him into a pint-sized sociopath.
2) Mommies are important too.  This isn't a one-way relationship so it's alright for me to accept help, let my house be a little messy for a while, or even sleep-train if it comes down to that.  I'm not selfish for needing some "me" time or needing sleep.
3) Whatever I choose to do, I want to look back on this period of my life without a lot of guilt and without regret.
4) I want to feel close to my little one.  Perhaps I need to up the cuddling, holding, babywearing, etc.
5) This really will end some day.  No matter what I choose to do, some day my baby will sleep through the night.  It really will happen.  In fact, there may be a day when I wish I could get him OUT of bed!
6) At the end of the day there is one person, and one person only, that I can control--me.  I can't force my kid to sleep but I can control how I react to it.  That being said, 4am me is not the same as 4pm me.  Just sayin'.

I know I'm not alone out there.  What have some of you mamas done/told yourself during rough patches?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giving me (or rather, YOU) a break

In my challenge to "take the easy way out," I've thought a lot about my own insecurities as a mom.  That feeling of judgement, that desire to be the best mom possible, and the pressure that comes along with it.  But here's someone else who needs a break--my fellow moms!  I have been a bit, shall we say, outspoken (?) about my dislike of controlled crying or "cry it out."  In reality, I still don't really love it.  But here's something--I think I've reached the breaking point for me and our current sleep situation and I, yes I, the hater of cry-it-out, have seriously considered it.  Thus far I think I've made it a whole five minutes before feeling terrible and going in to rescue my little guy.  I'm still not sure I'll actually be able to go through with it, but if nothing else I've learned a great lesson--Thou shalt not judge your fellow moms.

Through all of this I keep thinking about what in the world I'm supposed to learn from this situation.  I find myself doubting like crazy (one of the many problems of lack of sleep).  I want to be the best mom possible and in my quest I've perhaps gone to a bit of an extreme--not necessarily in my mothering but certainly in my treatment of my fellow mommies.

And so my friends, here's sending you the break you deserve.  May you know how wonderful of a mom you are.  May you also know that if you're looking for a break, here it is.  Way to go, Mom!  And sorry for any negative vibes you sensed from yours truly.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Happiest Mom Challenge: Take the Easy Way Out

"Being a happy mom is all about being yourself, not what anyone else thinks you should be, and relaxing enough to enjoy your kids and the rest of your life without too much second-guessing...move past the 'shoulds' and guilt, and be the kind of mother you want to be." (Francis 23)
I mentioned in my last post that I planned to blog my way through my "The Happiest Mom" challenge.  My plan is to pick one of the secrets to happy motherhood in Meagan Francis's book and find ways to implement it each month.  I won't necessarily go in order, but for the first month I thought I would start with her first secret--take the easy way out.

Now, you're hopefully better at this than me, but when I'm in a group of people (especially women, and above all, other moms), I start to compare myself to them.  Suzie makes all of her noodles from scratch, Shari hasn't had sugar in 12 years, Betsy hand makes all of her children's clothes, and Molly never, ever seems to be frazzled.  Meanwhile, I sit in my corner thinking about how it has never even occurred to me to make my own noodles, I think I would die without at least a little bit of sugar in my life, I stare at my kiddo's second-hand "made in China" T-shirt, and I'm not sure I showered this morning, and I definitely don't have any make-up on.

Anyone else ever feel like that?  Here's hoping so and hoping not at the same time.  In any case, I definitely find myself comparing, feeling overwhelmed, and sometimes even  a bit lonely in my apparent "loser Mom" status.

But then I step back and realize that 1) I can't do everything and 2) I don't even want to do all of those things.  I just want to know that I'm a good mom.  You would think by now I would just accept the fact that I'm not that bad and move on.  But, you know, I get feeling a bit insecure from time to time.

For example, the last couple of weeks due to teething, vacation, and heaven knows what else, I have had one very nightwaking baby.  I don't think there has ever been a time in his life when he has woken up this much.  Normally our co-sleeping situation works just fine and everyone is able to get a good night's sleep, but not these past few weeks.  And it's really taken a toll on me emotionally.

In a moment of frustration and fatigue, I shared this experience with a few ladies from church.  A couple of them were remarkably sympathetic and gave me a few tips for things that worked for them.  Others were a little more forceful in their comments and I just walked away feeling like a terrible mother.  I know they meant well but I just didn't feel comfortable with their suggestions and most of all, I just felt like a terrible mom.  When I came home, I was near tears as I  recounted the details of my conversation to Brennan.  For some reason, even though I feel that we've made well-informed and thoughtful decisions regarding our family's sleep situation, I started doubting myself.  Not because I thought we had done something wrong, but because I began to worry that we took "the easy way out"--like that was a bad thing--and now I was paying for it.

As we talked through some of our options Brennan turned to me and he said, "you know, one of the signs that you're a good mom is that you've really thought about this and you really care about it."  After some thought (and a nap!) I realized that here was the thing that was most important: everyone got the sleep they needed.  It didn't really matter what that looked like and it didn't matter if it was conventional.  It didn't matter if I took a nap instead of scrubbing the cupboards.  It didn't matter if Hyrum took a nap in my arms while I read a book instead of in his crib.  It didn't matter if I went to bed earlier rather than watching (yet another) episode of Arrested Development.

And so here I am, taking the easy way out.  And that's okay.  Nobody asked me to be Superwoman, they just asked me to be Mom.  I can be Mom with my store-bought noodles or with homemade ones.  I can be Mom if my kiddo sleeps all night in the next room or right beside me.  I can be Mom with my not-so-designer clothes and half-done make-up.

Now, as I write this, I don't think the answer is to take "the easy way out" on everything--just put some thought into the things you do that 1) don't make you happy and 2) don't really seem to be benefiting you, your family, or your children.  Even though disposables might be easier than cloth, using cloth diapers makes me happy and it helps my family financially.  I really like cooking dinner at home every night and it's generally healthier (and much cheaper) than eating out.  But I'm fine buying canned beans rather than soaking dried ones, and I'm fine using disposable wipes rather than cloth ones (though I tried that bandwagon...just wasn't for me).  I think we just need to find where to draw the line so that life as a mom (and in general) is, well, happy!

This month I'm going to look for ways that I can move past the guilt, the 'shoulds,' and take the easy way out.  Anyone want to join me in this challenge?  Are there things that you do "the easy way" that help to make you happy?  I'd love to hear!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Book Review: The Happiest Mom

I've been following The Happiest Mom blog for a few months now.  Meagan Francis has 5 children, and while many moms with a large number of children may find themselves lost in the hustle and bustle of taxi driving and soccer games, Francis seems to have found herself.  While she is not a member of my faith, I feel that she is the epitome of someone who has found nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.  When I found out that she published a book with Parenting Magazine under the same name as her blog, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Other than Dr. Sears's The Baby Book, I wish I had read this, and only this, book before becoming a mom.  Here's why: So many baby books out there prescribe a set of rules and formulas, but Francis shares practical advice that will help to fill your confidence in yourself rather than questioning.  Here's the premise: Happy moms have happy children.  If you want the best for your kids, learn to be kind to yourself.

The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood is chalked full of practical advice and stories from a mom who has been there, done that.  Her off-the-cuff humor had me chuckling, both in recognition and in anticipation for the great stories of motherhood to come.  While her book is definitely aimed at mothers, her tips for enjoying motherhood are really tips for enjoying life--whether you're a mother or not.

Whether you're looking for ways to deal with busy-body moms in your playgroup, a messy kitchen that is getting under your skin, or feeling overwhelmed by all of your to-do list items, Francis has some pointers that will help just about any one.  Best part?  You'll feel good about yourself with every page.  This ain't no "you're not doing good enough" book because, well, the message is about being happy, and guilt and happiness do not mix.  Also, the book itself is beautiful.  Colorful, doodle-full, and side-bar-full, you'll enjoy more than the words on the page. You'll enjoy just looking at it.  If you're already a happy mom, The Happiest Mom will provide that pick-me-up on the hard days or at least lend a laugh in the meantime.

I actually liked this book so much that I've decided I would focus on implementing one of her secrets each month.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blog title

So, I changed my blog title...again.  I started out calling it "Posting about Parenting" because that's what I was doing--posting my thoughts about my adventure in parenting.  And then I figured that put a little too much pressure on me.  I'm no expert, I'm just me and this is my adventure.  Then I changed the title to "One Happy Mommy" because I wanted to make it clear that this way my adventure and I'm just one happy mommy.  Again, too much pressure.  I felt like people just assumed that I was saying this was the one way to be a happy mommy.  And so I've changed the title again.  I hope I haven't caused too much confusion in the world....yeah, not like many people read this thing anyway.  Go back to your lives that are more important than my blog title.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New mommy sleep updates

The number one way to spot a new mommy is to read her Facebook statuses because they'll inevitably say something about sleep.  _________ slept ____hours last night!  seems to permeate my Facebook feed every time one of my friends has a new baby.  I know I definitely had such updates and I would guess that roughly 95% of my new mommy friends on Facebook have done the same.  Each time I read one of these updates I tend to get a little frustrated--not because of the excitement or because I think that sleep is unimportant, but because I think it says something about how we judge the worth of a parent.  

New moms want to feel validated.  Those first couple months after the birth of a baby are a very vulnerable time for new parents.  Just about everyone--stranger, friend, or foe--has a piece of advice for you.  When a lot of it conflicts, especially with your own personal beliefs, it may cause frustration, feelings of inadequacy and even depression.  Even though my baby is well beyond the newborn stage I still have random strangers ask me how my baby sleeps.  Why does it matter that much to everyone?  Why do I never seem to get questions like, "How are you enjoying your time as a mother?", "How is your bond with your baby?", or even "do you feel well-rested?"

I'm not saying that the issue of sleep should never be discussed, I just wish it didn't seem to be the only thing that was discussed in new mommy circles, mostly because I don't think it's a question that leaves most new moms feeling any better.  Here are the facts: Babies are terrible sleepers and unless sleep is forced upon them, most will continue waking at least 1-2 times a night throughout the first year.

Maybe it's silly that I feel passionate about this, but after sitting in my La Leche League meeting last week I found there were too many mothers who felt terrible about themselves because their baby wasn't sleeping through the night.  These feelings weren't borne from fatigue or exhaustion--they were borne of feelings of inadequacy.  Personally, I just don't think that's fair.  Instead of berating and belittling the mother who responds time and time again to her child's needs, why don't we celebrate that?  Why do we not celebrate self-sacrifice, when that sacrifice is willingly made?  I know that for me, my questions will change.  I think there needs to be a little more rallying, some more offers to help, and many more encouraging words.  Goodness knows, a new mom needs kind words even more than she needs 8 straight hours of sleep.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Less internet = happier mom

As many of you can probably tell, I get a little passionate from time to time about a few issues.  It's fine to be passionate, at least in my mind.  But, sometimes I let my passion slide over into judgement.  I don't really like that about myself.  I've really been struggling for a few months now to find a way to still feel passionate about things that feel right or wrong to me without slipping into "that mom" that I don't want to be.  After some prayer, some thinking, and some good conversations, I feel that I'm getting closer to where I want to be.  But if I were to list the one single thing that has made the biggest difference it would be spending less time online.

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with being online.  I think a lot of good things come from the internet and I definitely still enjoy me some Facebook and blogging time.  But I have found that spending less time reading other people's inflamed blog posts or status updates helps me to feel a little less inflamed.  Perhaps reading about other people's passions (whether they align with mine or not) just throws flames on my smouldering  embers.  Or perhaps I just get to live in my own little world where I don't know what other people are doing as much, so I can live more comfortably without worrying that I'm being judged.  Or, really, maybe just blogging less means that I don't structure arguments in my head as much.  Whatever it is, I just feel a lot better about it.

Now, don't get me wrong, I still feel a lot of passion about things.  Just today I commented on and concurred with a friend's anti-Babywise Facebook status with gusto.  But instead of feeling a huge vindictive surge against everyone and anything that upholds said book, I tried to talk about my feelings regarding the ideas in said book without passing judgement on those who have chosen to follow it.  I hope I was successful in my intentions.

In any case, I've really found that less internet = less judgemental = happier mom.  What this probably means in practical terms for this blog is that I'll be posting less.  But for now, that just feels like the right thing for me.

Whether it's internet, TV, or something else, do you find that you have things that affect your mood as a mom (or dad)?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Getting unplugged and tuned in

We've had a few problems with electronics in our home recently. My personal laptop is having major problems connecting to the internet, Brennan's old laptop is a dinosaur waiting to kill over and is currently donning a space bar that refuses to work half of the time, and I mistakenly let Hyrum play with our cell phone the other day and later found it in a pool of water. Ugh. One thing after another. (P.S. Tried putting it in rice with minimal success...any other ideas?)

But, there is a very large silver lining in all of that--I haven't been online as much lately and when I am, it's with a purpose. I don't think there's anything wrong with being on Facebook, cruising blogs, or hitting the refresh button in Gmail over and over and over...and over again. However, I've definitely found myself in a little bit of a quandary: I never seemed to be getting anything done. The house was generally messier than I would like, the dinners less nutritious and less delicious than intended, and all of those craft projects I had were lying idly by. But by golly, I knew what was happening with that second cousin's best friend in Bangkok.

Obviously I'm still online--publishing this blog post has proven that. But after the last week and a half of being a little more unplugged, I find myself being much more purposeful while perusing the internet. I have a few blogs I really like to follow, I check my email, I read through my Facebook newsfeed and then jump offline and spend time doing something else. It's amazing what I can get done when my attention isn't divided between the babe and the wedding pictures posted on Facebook, the soup I was trying to cook on the stove and the random blog I just came across, and that load of laundry that never seems to get folded and a NY Times article published 5 months ago.

In any case, I think I like this new life. I like what it does to me as a mom, a wife, a homemaker, and an individual. It helps me to realize that my online life is just that--its own life. It's fine for it to come out and play from time to time but perhaps my online life can become more of an acquaintance than a hands-all-over-each-other romantic relationship.

Do you find there are things in your life that are bringing you down or distracting you from things you find more important? How do you deal with those things?

Monday, August 29, 2011

I am grateful for today

A number of you may the family I am referring to in this post. I know their struggles and trials have been on my mind a lot lately, almost constantly.

One of my dear friends just had her baby a few days ago. From what I have been able to ascertain, labor and delivery all went very smoothly after an uncomplicated pregnancy. However, her baby had some unknown complications that have resulted in him being rushed to the NICU. I know that his condition is currently stable but very serious and they do not know when they will be able to bring him home with them.

I have become very good friends with this wonderful young woman, especially since our move to Calgary. She has inspired me in my journey as a mother, been a support in times of need, and has overall been a very dear friend though we live quite a distance apart. There's something remarkably painful about watching others in pain. My heart overflows with love for them and yet I feel so helpless. I'm sure they feel much the same way.

As I have watched for updates one Facebook status at a time, I am compelled to hug my son more frequently, treasure our days even more, and kiss him as much as possible. It has reminded me of that which is the most important part of parenting--our love and devotion to our families. Perhaps this is morbid, but a lot of my decisions in mothering have resulted from this one thought, "If today/tonight was our last day/night together, how would I want us to remember it?" I've found amazing strength and support from that little question.

And so my prayers will continue to plead--beg--for comfort, health and strength for this little family. While I may not be able to put my arms around this new mother, father and tiny baby; I will put my arms around my own little family. I hope in some way that will make a difference.

I thank the Lord for my family. I thank Him that we are well. I thank Him for today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baby #2

Made ya look!

Okay, in all seriousness now.

While I was pregnant with babe #1, I was already talking about when we could/would/should have babe #2. You see, I'm a little older than I planned to be when beginning this whole childbearing thing. Those of you who knew me in my adolescent years probably remember the days of the plan for 14 children--all of whom would be donning handmade clothing and would be homeschooled on our ranch in Montana. And, well, then I married an accountant, not a rancher. And then we had baby #1 at age 26 rather than 20 and I finally got over the delusions of being able to make all (or even much) of my kiddos clothing. But I still had plans for a semi-big family. Probably not 14 or anything, but you know, 6 or 7...or 8. And, maybe that's still in the works. Only time will tell.

And so we agreed that around 9 months old we could start trying for baby #2. That was as low as I could get the hubby to go. He had the attitude of, "well, we'll see what happens and how we feel. Let's take this child thing one at a time." I was like, "if I am going to have all of the kiddos we can/want/should have then we've gotta get a move on!!!" If you can't tell, the hubby is a little more easy going than I am. I'm a little more, shall we say, tightly wound? An over-scheduler? Nutty? We'll go with that. Nutty.

Here's how nutty I was. Baby #1 is two weeks old and I'm already talking about having Baby #2. I blame the hormones. Here I am, sore as all get-out, having gotten about zero hours of sleep in the last two weeks, and the last time I had a shower was....well, I probably couldn't remember. And I was already talking about Baby #2. Yeah, gotta be those hormones.

But here we are, only a little over a month away from the agreed upon 9 month mark and I've dropped the mayhem and begging for baby #2. A lot of is because I want a VBAC something fierce and from everything I've read and researched, 24 months between pregnancies seems the minimal length for a best shot...well, and for some providers to even consider you for one.

At first this really got me down because it meant that I might not have the opportunity to 1) have as many children as I wanted and 2) have another little newborn in my arms as soon as I want it (anyone have a newborn I can hold? Do you ship to Canada? I'll pay the international fees!). I felt a little sorry for myself for a while. It just didn't seem fair!

Then I got to thinking of all of the really great things that come from waiting a little longer: Perhaps baby #1 will no longer be in diapers anymore. Perhaps he'll become my little helper who can open doors and at least put away his own shoes. Perhaps he'll be able to communicate on a semi-decent level and there will be some reciprocal conversation in my life during waking hours.

But here was the biggest selling point for me: Baby #1 will get his baby time. Now, I know there are some incredible women out there who can divide their time and their attention (and be pleasant during their pregnancies) to ensure that happens. I happen to be friends with a number of these incredible women. But I'm coming to the realization that I just don't think I'm one of those people. At least not yet. And so Baby #1 will get his time to be the nursling, his time to cuddle in bed, his time to get all of the grandma hugs when we visit. I don't think that mommies have to really "divide" their time, but I do think things get trickier.

And so I look back on that 9-month agreement (funny how I didn't even consider that my mommy's-milk-loving-baby would put the cork on that idea) and remind myself that what matters most is the quality of our relationships, not the quantity. If we can have both quality and quantity then great! If not, well, that's fine too. We'll work for quality in the meantime. I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason and that our Heavenly Father has provided a way that we can be happy, whether or not it aligns with our previously held notions of happiness. And sometimes, especially then.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why all the talk about co-sleeping

I read this quote today and I think it captured a lot of the feelings I’ve tried, at times unsuccessfully, to portray on this blog.

“I don’t begrudge Ferber the right to preach Ferberization or parents who prefer sleeping sans child the right to practice it. Live and let live. What’s annoying is the refusal of Ferber and other experts to reciprocate my magnanimity. They act as if parents like me are derelict, as if children need to fall asleep in a room alone.”—Robert Wright, Time magazine

I know I’ve talked a lot about co-sleeping on this blog and I have perhaps given the impression that it’s the only way to go. Truth is, I think it’s much better for a family to sleep happily apart than to sleep unhappily together. I truly do not mean to be pushy about the subject. If solitary sleeping is working well for you, then by all means, continue.

So, why do I talk about it so much?

There are so many negative things written and said about co-sleeping. Of all of the decisions that we have made as a family, it’s the one that gets the most flack and I just don’t think that’s fair. In being a co-sleeping mom I’m accused of putting my baby at risk of suffocation, neglecting my sexual relationship with my husband, causing sleep problems, creating an unhealthy co-dependence between mother and child, and some even go so far as to say that I’m somehow sexually abusing my child simply by having him in my proximity while we sleep. At least in my experience, none of this can possibly true. I’ve taken great precautions to make our bed a safe place for the baby; found ways to continue sexual intimacies with my husband; prevented a whole host of sleep problems by modeling how sleep is a pleasant thing to enter, stay in, and exit; and I feel I’ve created an environment in which my children will grow up with an intact sense of self and others around them rather than a dependence on material objects. As for the accusation about inappropriate sexual behavior, my thought is that something has gone wrong in our society where people do not get the love and touch they need in appropriate ways and in turn, seek for it in inappropriate ones. In no way do I believe appropriate co-sleeping can or will cause inappropriate behavior later in life.

In any case, can you see why I get a little excited about talking about its merits? There is so much negative stuff out there and I feel that if I can change even one person’s mind about the practice, whether or not they choose to do so in their family, then I feel I’ve made life a little easier for the other co-sleeping families out there.

There’s also a part of me that wants to say, “It’s okay if you want to do it.” Before and right after Hyrum was born, I was so terrified of letting him into our bed for the reasons I stated above. I loved holding him and feeling him near me, and what’s not natural about that? You’ve shared a body with this little person for his entire existence. I think it’s only natural and intuitive to want to keep them near you at the time when they’re most vulnerable—in a state of sleep. And yet I was terrified. I was terrified because I had read these words in the self-purported book of infant care:

“It is common for children in third-world countries to sleep in the same bed with their parents…poverty forces the sleeping arrangement…The family bed is unsafe….Sleeping with your baby creates needs but doesn’t fulfill them...There is not a single benefit gained that can possibly outweigh the risks.”—Ezzo and Bucknam (223-25).

Those are some pretty strong words--and I, somehow, believed them. And so, I dutifully put Hyrum in his cradle every night and after a few weeks, moved him to his own room. I did so because I thought, as the authors seem to suggest, that here in America we’re above co-sleeping. Here we know that it is unsafe. Here we know that only bad things can come of it.

And then I stumbled upon co-sleeping by sheer accident after my husband brought my baby to me one time in the middle of the night to feed. From my memory it was during those ridiculous few weeks in grad school where I had a 15-page paper due in my pedagogy class, my graduate recital to give, my theatre comps, two rounds of grad orals, and my recital paper due one right after the other—all with a newborn. There was no rest for this weary mommy. That night, before I could even get myself ready to feed him, my baby had fallen back asleep. He just wanted his mommy. He didn’t need to eat, he just wanted physical contact and touch. In my exhaustion, I fell asleep with him in the crook of my arm and didn’t awake until Brennan found me asleep in this state and asked if he should take Hyrum back to his crib for me. I was reluctant because it felt so pleasant, but I said yes because that’s what I was supposed to do.

Over the next few weeks I thought to myself, “hmmm…I don’t think I would have rolled over on to him.” After having him there with me and noticing how natural it felt, it just seemed like a ridiculous claim. Upon further investigation, I realized my gut instinct on that one was right. Breastfeeding moms don’t roll over on their babies unless there is something altering their judgment—drugs, smoking, medical sedation, or extreme exhaustion—as long as they have taken proper safety precautions to make their sleeping environment suitable for their babies. I also learned that in countries where breastfeeding and co-sleeping are the norm, overlaying is unheard of and SIDS is a pure anomaly. In fact, natural birthing pioneer Dr. Michel Odent, upon his visit to China in 1977, inquired as to the number of incidents of "cot death" (SIDS) in China. He reported:

"Nobody understood my questions; the conept o sudden infant death or cot death was apparently unknown amonth professionals and lay people in such different places as Peking, Hsian, Loyang, Nanking, Shanghai, and Canton. Furthermore I learned that Chinese babies sleep with their mothers, even in the most westernized families, such as the families of interpreters. Ever since then I have held the view that, even if it happens during the day, cot death is a disease of babies who spend their nights in an atmosphere of loneliness and that cot death is a disease of societies where the nuclear family [rather than the extended family] has taken over."

And so I started questioning what I had read and heard. When I shared my discovery with people, I almost always received negative criticism. Hardly anyone told me to go with my gut on this one. Even people who believed that the standard claims were incorrect would instill fear by saying, “You’ll never be able to move him out” or “you’ll need to break that habit now rather than later.”

I’ve concluded that we live in a culture afraid of weaning—at least from some things. From pacifiers, to breastfeeding, to co-sleeping—we spend so much time worrying about how we’ll stop that we don’t enjoy it while it’s there. I wonder how many people don’t make changes in their lives—from quitting smoking to better health—simply because they’re afraid of the weaning process. However, we put children in diapers knowing full-well that they’ll potty-train someday and few mothers are afraid of weaning their child off of infant formula. As with all things, children wean from the family bed when they, and their parents, are ready.

In any case, I hope I don’t come across as overbearing in my praising of co-sleeping. My intention isn’t to convert, simply to explore the option. And if there’s anyone out there looking for permission, I hope they find it here. It’s okay to co-sleep, it’s okay not to co-sleep. It’s okay to breastfeed, it’s okay not to breastfeed. It’s okay to cry-it-out, it’s okay to not cry-it-out. Everything has its pros and its cons so I hope the mud slaying stops her—and that goes for me too.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

How breastfeeding changed my life

I was chatting with my friend Kim the other day, another young mom in our ward who shares a lot of the same thoughts and philosophies I do. Truth be told, Kim is kind of one of my heroes. Natural-eating, co-sleeping, home birth mama with a beautiful bond and attachment to her baby girl. She shared with me some of her struggles with breastfeeding in the early months of her baby's life. As she told me some of the things that she had to do to continue breastfeeding I thought, "Goodness, I wonder if I would have gone through all of the trouble."

I absolutely love breastfeeding. I love how Hyrum will snuggle in. I love how it calms him when he's upset. I love how he gets so excited for our nursing sessions. I even love how rambunctious he's getting when he nurses. It just reminds me of how the breastfeeding relationship is constantly developing, constantly changing. In the early days you wonder if you'll ever move from the chair and then suddenly one day your nursing sessions are down to 5-10 minutes. They go from being cuddly to kicky, from lying to sitting. I just think it's amazing to watch the relationship mirror the baby's learning and growing.

And yet I think back to my early days of Hyrum's life. I'm pretty sure if it had been much of a struggle I would have thrown in the towel. I just wasn't committed enough. Truth be told, I was terrified of breastfeeding. Not on a philosophical level, just terrified that I wouldn't be able to figure it out. Thankfully, breastfeeding was not one of those things that came with difficulty for Hyrum and me. I thank Heavenly Father for that blessing because honestly, breastfeeding has changed my life.

Because I loved breastfeeding so much and it felt so natural, I began questioning some of the things I had read/learned/heard/thought about infant care. Because breastfeeding came easily, I transitioned from wanting to schedule feed to demand feed. Because I started feeding on demand, I found breastfeeding to be more than just food but also a time of comfort and cuddles for both my baby and mommy. Because breastfeeding was established, I desired to learn about other natural ways of living, including birthing. Because I breastfed and wanted to make my life a little easier, I moved our baby from the crib to our bed. Because I moved him to our bed, my husband and I have had some wonderful bonding moments as a whole family. Because I wanted my breastfed baby to grow up healthy and strong, I started taking better care of my own body. Because I wanted to take better care of my body I started eating healthy foods and exercising. Because I eat healthy foods and exercise, I have more energy and find greater enjoyment in my life. Because I love breastfeeding so much, I joined a La Leche League and met many wonderful mothers who live in my city. Because I met other moms, Calgary is starting to feel more and more like home. Because it feels more and more like home, I feel happy. '

And so now I realize that Heavenly Father provided me with a beautiful gift. If, for me, breastfeeding had been quite difficult in the beginning, I probably would have given up. But, if I had given up, I wonder how different my life would be today. I really like my life just as it is now. A number of things have changed, a lot have stayed the same, but I like the changes. I like how breastfeeding has changed my life.

How has breastfeeding affected your life?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Teaching independence

I've made good friends with a couple of women here in Calgary. One of them is my upstairs neighbor who also has a baby boy who's about 2 months older than Hyrum. We got chatting yesterday about independence while we were on our walk. She also has her son in her room. She recently moved him from their bed to a mattress on the floor and has been having a lot of success with that. But a few friends were really pushing her to not give up on the crib. She decided it wasn't worth it for her. But then there's all that talk about independence. So, we got to thinking, how do you teach it and how do you gain it?

Lots of people talk about instilling independence in your children--leaving them to play by themselves or having a separate sleeping space. But, here are my personal thoughts on independence---it can't be pushed. I personally don't think it's independence if there wasn't any choice involved in it. It's just the way life is. So, how do you encourage without forcing?

I thought of ways that my parents taught me independence. Since my memory doesn't serve me very well in infanthood, I think mostly about my teenage years. Partially from tight finances and partially from wanting to teach me responsibility, my parents told me that if I wanted things--new school clothes, a driver's license, insurance, etc.--then I needed to have a job. Thus began a great career at Little Caesar's Pizza (har har). My parents also had me pay for my own college education. There were a few times when they would spot me $20 here or there, but for the most part, I payed for it (or at least mortgaged my future...)

But since I don't have a teenager, I have an infant, I wonder what sorts of ways I can help encourage independence and responsibility at a young age. One of the ways we've come up with is letting him feed himself. If he doesn't want to eat, he doesn't have to. If he wants to, we provide the food but he does the feeding. My plan for separate sleeping spaces is that when he wants it, we'll provide the means and some gentle encouragement to stay in his own bed.

What are some ways you've found to encourage independence in your youngsters?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sending "good" vibes

I often think about dropping this blog all together. I mean, I like blogging...actually, maybe love it. But, there is so much negative stuff out there and I don't want to be one of those people contributing to it. I've realized it's incredibly hard to critique something without it being internalized as a personal attack. I honestly, truly, hope that while I may vehemently disagree with a method or philosophy, I do not want anyone, especially those that I love, to walk away feeling as if I somehow disapprove of them personally. I haven't found a consistently good way of communicating that, but please know that the intent is there.

At the end of the day, here's what I wish. Of course I wish everyone out there thought the same way I did. It would make life a lot easier and selfishly, I'm tired of feeling like others think I'm a "bad" mom or a "weird" mom.

When I was living in Utah it was a lot easier to get together with other moms and talk about our thoughts on childrearing. I didn't feel any need to write then. I had my support team right there.

Then I moved far from home, far from friends, and far from any life that I knew. Fact is, it gets kinda lonely and my brain gets a racin'. I can't go over to those friends' homes anymore and just talk. The hubby is incredibly busy at work and comes home very late in the evening, completely exhausted, and after a quick kiss goodnight, we both hit the sack without much conversation beyond "how did today go? Oh good, you survived. Here's to another one..." Not much time to sit down and discuss the ins and outs of our thoughts and feelings. It will get better soon (September 15th, you need to come NOW! I feel like I'm waiting for my due date all over again...) but in the meantime, I blog. You know how your partner is usually the person you vent to and keeps you sane? Mine should reappear after the tax deadline. I hate tax season.

Anyway, enough of the griping and complaining already! Here's my overall point, please realize that when I blog, I'm coming from a place where I'm still conversing, still figuring out exactly what it is that I actually think. Some of my thoughts are well thought-out, others are some rant that I'm currently feeling the need to get off my chest. However, I love the discussion we have here either way. If I seem illogical, please call me out on it. But please also know that I don't necessarily think that I'm being logical. I'm just writing. And writing. And then thinking later.

But no matter what, know that I don't ever want anyone walking away from this blog thinking they're "bad." Gosh, there is nothing less productive in this world than making someone feel awful about themselves. Do I wish everyone who read my posts agreed with them? Sure! Do I wish people would walk away thinking, "now that Amy, she's got some great ideas." Definitely! But here's what I don't want, "Golly, she must think I'm a bad parent." No way, Jose! (thanks Michelle Tanner) Do I necessarily agree with you? Maybe not. But by Jove, I hope everyone feels empowered to do what is best for them and their families. Do I wish no one ever cried-it-out again or that everyone loved babywearing? You betcha! Are you a "bad" mom (or dad) if you do, or don't do (respectively), those things? Not at all.

Here's to sending some "good" vibes. Goodness knows there are enough bad ones out there. Let's not make this place one of them.

Sex and co-sleeping

I'm not really going to give a lengthy response to the issue of sexual intimacy and co-sleeping. I think this sums up all of my thoughts pretty well.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The feminist clarifies

I received a few different private responses from various people who read my post about questioning the hegemony behind the the labeling of "unsafe" to the practice of co-sleeping. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the responses were predominantly from men. One thought I was unfair and another thought the post was great. I'm not sure if different people read things differently, if they're at other places in their lives, or whatever, but I thought that maybe my previous post deserved a little bit of clarification.

My allusion to a male hegemony that exists was a critique of Western philosophy, pediatrics, and parenting practices--not a critique of all males. Certainly there are a great many men who believe in gentle parenting, who would lovingly put the needs of their wives and children far above there own, and who are supportive of alternative ways of doing things. In fact, I will even entertain the thought that most men would be okay with co-sleeping, even if their wives wouldn't.

My post was mainly critiquing what I believe to be a shift in parenting practice that certainly seems to favor a male-dominated society's priorities and outlooks. While, at least to my knowledge, there is no publication regarding the overall history of parenting practices throughout time (such a publication would be monstrous, and would likely, as most history textbooks do, give a one-sided account). But here's what I've been able to ascertain through the reading of a number of parenting books and articles that address such a topic.

It is quite clear that the extended family was replaced by the nuclear family during the Industrial Revolution as families left the farms and communities of their extended family and headed for single family dwellings in the cities. At the same time, women began to leave the home to work in factories rather than being at home with their children. This naturally led to a stark change in who and what was the authority on parenting because unlike today, they couldn't simply call up mom or grandma to get advice. No longer were mothers and grandmothers sharing their knowledge of breastfeeding and childrearing, and so doctors became the voice of authority. As a result, at least as far as I can see, the opportunity arose for doctor's personal preferences (all of whom were male at the time) to override the longstanding traditions of pre-Industrial Europe and America. Also, as is only natural, male doctors could not offer help to breastfeeding mothers because they simply had never breastfed themselves (something to consider even today when male doctors/authors give breastfeeding advice).

Since a woman's body naturally produces milk and other animals naturally nurse their young, at least in my mind, it's not hard to see that there was a bit of conflict over ownership of the woman's body and a confusion regarding proper breastfeeding techniques and information, that led to the move toward infant formula rather than the mother nursing the baby herself. With the decline of breastfeeding naturally came the decline of co-sleeping (and the introduction of "sleep training"...but we won't get into that). Since one would have to get out of bed to make a bottle rather than simply attach the child to the breast, it was no longer natural for a woman to bring the child to bed with her.

I don't blame men, or even the authors I stated in my previous post, for perpetuating incorrect information about breastfeeding and scaring families away from co-sleeping. I just think that in large part they're not considering the differences in safety between a breastfeeding mother and fathers, grandparents, siblings,etc. who could sleep next to a small baby. One of the main rules for safe co-sleeping is that only the breastfeeding mother should be sleeping next to the infant. This is the only person who is in tune enough with her baby to prevent "overlaying." (There are a number of other precautions which should be taken and are necessary for safe co-sleeping.)

In the end, I don't think families who choose not to co-sleep are being unsafe. Rather, I believe that the incorrect labeling of co-sleeping as being unsafe needs to be removed. I do believe that until the male authors who have staked themselves as the"authority" on infant care change their instructions, mothers will continue to believe them. I wish this were not the case. I wish mothers and all women felt empowered enough to turn to other women, other mothers, before needing to rely on "experts," But, in our male-dominated society, that just isn't the case. I believe it is changing though and I continue to hope in a society that will return to what it once was--mothers learning from their mothers and fathers learning from their fathers, and each respecting one another in their respective roles (whatever those roles happen to be for their own family). I would also like to see doctors maintaining their roles as educators of child development and those who treat sick children rather than the experts on parenting practices.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What my kiddo taught me today

As a parent I often think of all of the things I need and want to teach to my children--empathy, kindness, responsibility, obedience, respect, etc. Sometimes I forget to notice all of the things he teaches me. When he smiles at a stranger even though he's feeling a little grumpy, he teaches me about putting others first. When he wakes up for that 6am feeding, he teaches me about love and patience. When I am trying to tidy up the house and he wants to play, he teaches me about keeping proper priorities in this life. I'm positive Heavenly Father sent these little souls to Earth to teach the parents at least as much as he sent the children to learn from their earthly fathers and mothers.

Today Hyrum taught me about forgiveness. Oh how I felt like a terrible mommy today. When we were out for our morning walk I somehow tripped as I was getting onto the sidewalk. He was in the baby carrier at the time and even though my hands and knees took the brunt of the fall, his poor little head scraped the sidewalk. He cried and cried, probably mostly from fear and shock. But after a few minutes of cuddling, a little nursing (on the sidewalk, might I add) he calmed down, snuggled in, and was ready to continue on home.

After spending the better part of the day in the ER just to make sure everything was okie dokie (since we don't have to pay to see a doctor here, being safe rather than sorry isn't going to break the bank!), Hyrum didn't even seem phased by the whole incident. I felt awful but he seemed to be doing great. Isn't it so wonderful how children are so forgiving? They don't hold a grudge like we do and question why. They don't continually bring up our mistakes as a way to make us feel bad. They simply ask for the comfort they need in the moment and then move on.

Sometimes I think about how much an attitude like that would change my life. Instead of remembering the hurt someone has caused me, remember the comfort they gave. Instead of questioning why, offer forgiveness. Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, live in the present. Think of how different the world would be if we would all learn from our children.

Goodness knows I have a lot to learn.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A feminist questions the hegemony behind no co-sleeping

I guess you could call me a feminist. It's hard to embrace that term when it has such a negative connotation. You know, the bra burners of the 60s and such. That's all anyone thinks about. Never mind that feminism began with women winning the vote, wearing pants, women attending college, and reproductive rights. Even those who shrink at the word "feminist" believe that it's okay for women to wear a pair of blue jeans, cast a vote, obtain a college degree, and take a birth control pill if she wants to. But whatever. We can keep thinking the word is dirty if that is desired. But for the record, I wear pants. And I went to college. I vote. And, well, I've taken birth control in my life.

So, let's take it I'm a feminist and go from there.

I don't like men telling me how to be a woman. Period. As a mom who loves to read about parenting, I've noticed how many parenting books out there --almost exclusively aimed at the mother--are written by men. And not surprisingly, most of them are aimed at sleeping. Oh sleep...it seems as if that's all anyone can talk about when it comes to babies and young children. "Is he sleeping through the night?" "Are you sleep training him?" "How did he sleep last night?" "Does he take good naps?" To be honest, it kind of drives me batty. In fact, it's gotten to the point where I've started telling people that yes, he does sleep through the night. Because guess what, he does sleep during the night. Maybe not without waking for a little bit of comfort but he surely does sleep through the night.

And then I started wondering, why is this such a big deal to people? Here's where I pull out my feminist card...male authors. With few exceptions (i.e. the Sears family doctors) most male authors place enormous weight on sleep (Ezzo, Weissbluth, Ferber)--how long, how they get to sleep, and most importantly, where they sleep.

Is it that big of a surprise that male authors would be the ones to suggest moving the baby to his own bed, in his own room? While there's a baby there he's got to be a little more creative to get some action between the covers. So the simply solution is obviously to move the baby to his own bed, in his own room, and to help mothers feel better about it, they use the word "safety."

Whether you're a co-sleeper or not, it ain't hard to see where all of the fuel for solitary sleeping is coming from. After analyzing the statistics, as much as many pediatricians will give a thumbs down to co-sleeping, your baby actually has a higher chance of survival in the night if he's in your bed rather than in a crib. (Statistics gathered in 1997 suggest that while 515 infants died of "overlaying" in an adult bed, 2705 died of SIDS--the large majority of which were sleeping solitary). And yet, sleeping with your infant or young child is scolded, something that many families do but don't tell because if your kid sleeps with you, you're a "bad parent."

But here's the thing, families across the world have been sleeping with their infants for thousands of years. Why? Most white Americans say it's a cultural decision. People from "other cultures" do it, but we're above that. We should note that white American (mostly males) were also the ones to say that infant formula (which used to be nothing more than flour mixed with water and perhaps a little bit of cow's milk) was superior to breast milk. Throughout the 18th-early 20th centuries, women were told to feed their babies on schedules. When their milk supply slowly dropped, they had the advantage of turning to the "superior" infant formulas. Again, men were telling women how to feed their children when for thousands of years they had been doing just fine. However, with the turn to infant formula, the adult male, not the baby, was the owner of the woman's body.

Since we've been able to acknowledge that the "experts" of the past were incorrect about breastfeeding, why is it that we haven't acknowledged that they are also incorrect regarding the location of baby in the nighttime? If you talk to most (by choice) co-sleeping mothers they'll tell you they love the feel of their baby next to them. They love waking in the morning to her family being together. She'll tell you it feels natural and wonderful. She'll more than likely tell you that she's well-rested. Hmmm...sleep for all, feels natural, allows for the continuation of the breastfeeding relationship...sounds like a positive thing to me.

If nothing else, I'm curious as to how this will pan out in 50-100 years. Will our grandchildren look back on our time the way we look back at the advice of doctors of the 1940s and 50s? A time when they told women their breasts were too small to breastfeed? A time when they told women to feed on a strict 4 hour schedule for the good of the baby and themselves? Will our children's children have the information that proves that what families have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years is safest? I'm curious to watch.