Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A man of the cloth

Cloth diapering, that is! A little over a month ago we made the switch from disposable diapers to cloth diapers. If there is one thing that you should know about cloth diapering: it's far easier than you would think! I was a little afraid to make the transition but seriously, not a big deal at all.

Why we decided to switch:

Environment. My primary reason for wanting to switch to cloth was the environmental impact. One day while I was taking out a couple bags of diapers to the trash I thought, "seriously! This is HEAVY and it's only a few days worth of diapers!" Current statistics say that disposable diapers for one child contribute 1-2 tons (TONS!!!) of waste to our landfills. Considering the fact that the US is constantly looking for places to dump it's garbage, eliminating my 1-10 tons of garbage (depending on how many children we have) seemed like a no-brainer. Also, a number of people argue about how much water is used in cloth diapering but when considering the amount of water used to produce disposables, the comparison is actually in favor of cloth. Less waste, less water. Overall, the environmental impact is considered equal if the cloth diapers are used for one child (taking production and maintenance into consideration) but since most cloth diapers are used for 1-4 children, again, cloth wins out!

Cost. Though cloth diapers are a bit of an investment at the onset (average $300-500 depending on the type and amount), it pales in comparison with the average $1500 that is spent on disposables. Again, considering that cloth diapers can be reused for multiple children, the cost is astronomically lower!

Health. Babies who wear cloth diapers have fewer diaper rashes than disposable wearers. This is because they are made of cloth rather than plastic (yup, those disposables are actually made of plastic, not paper as they would like you to think) and cloth diapers get changed more frequently. Also, since the materials in disposables have been linked to cancer and even infertility, the health benefits go beyond the immediate diaper rash.

Convenience: Okay, yes, they take a little more time, but guess what! No running to the store on Saturday night to pick up diapers when we realize we're low. Just throw them in the washer and in a few hours, we'll have some more! Also, babies who use cloth diapers often potty train much earlier than those in disposables because they can feel when they are wet. Talk about the most convenient diaper type--the type that don't need to be worn!

So, you thinking of making the switch? If you're anything like me, you probably feel super overwhelmed at the number of options and how many different kinds there are. In reality, most diapers fit into about 4 categories.

Types of Diapers:

All diapers: every diaper out there has two basic components--an absorbent layer and a water-resistant layer that goes over the absorbent layer. Depending on you diaper type, these may be separate or all together.

Traditional flats and pre-folds: Flats are your old-fashioned huge-o piece of cloth that you can fold in a few different ways depending on your baby's size/wiggliness. This type of diaper is great for newborn babies. Most newborns can't fit into other types of diapers and they're really inexpensive so you can stock up on them for the days of 12-15 diaper changes (aren't you glad they outgrow that!?). This type of diaper is closed with pins or a Snappi (much easier!) with a water-resistant layer over top. A pre-fold is basically a traditional diaper but already folded for you. The main type of diaper we use is very similar to a pre-fold but the insert is basically a pre-folded pre-fold. These diapers sound difficult but are much easier than they sound.

Fitted Diapers: These diapers are an absorbent layer that is snapped together (almost like a disposable) with a separate water-resistant cover over top.  They are usually sized (generally, size small and size large) and therefore, you need to buy at least two different sizes of diaper over the life of your baby.

All-in-ones: These diapers are basically a fitted diaper with the water-resistant layer already attached to the diaper. The advantages of this diaper is the ease--super easy to leave your baby with a sitter because they're the most similar to disposables and easy overall because everything is self-contained. No stuffing, no layers, just one diaper and go! These diapers tend to cost a little more than flats, prefolds, or fitted diapers and they take a little longer to dry since everything is together. They also will need to be replaced more frequently because the attached PUL liner (the water-proof layer) breaks down more quickly than the cloth diaper itself  and since they're connected, you'll end up replacing your diapers a little more frequently (they should still last at least 1-2 children).

Pocket diapers: Similar to the all-in-ones except you tuck the absorbent layer into a pocket in the diaper rather than them being built in together. They are an absorbent shell  with an opening or "pocket" (hence the name) to place your absorbent layer. These diapers have the ease advantage of the all-in-ones as you can stuff them before putting them on to the baby but can become more absorbent than all-in-ones because you can use them with just about any insert or use a number of inserts at nighttime. The disadvantage of these diapers again is cost. Like the all-in-ones, the outer layer is attached , the whole diaper needs to be washed after each use and you therefore need more of them.

Many families mix-and-match different kinds of diapers depending on the circumstance, perhaps using all-in-ones when leaving baby with a sitter, a pocket diaper at night, and fitted diapers during the day. We opted for a diaper called a Flip (made by Cotton Babies) because they were very affordable (bought a lot of inserts but not as many outer shells. Outer shells are generally more expensive), very absorbent, and versatile. We also have some fitted (MotherEase Sandy's) and pocket diapers (Apple Cheeks), and prefolds (Bummis) that we use as well. I, personally, wasn't really drawn to the all-in-ones because my baby pees like a racehorse but again, every family and every baby has their own preferences.


There are a number of different materials out there but here are the most common.

Absorbent layer: cotton, microfiber, organic cotton, bamboo, hemp. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Hemp, microfiber and organic cotton are generally more absorbent. However, hemp and microfiber hold on to odors more easily. Bamboo and organic cotton generally don't hold on to bacteria as easily but they're more expensive.

Outer layer: Polyurethane laminate  or wool.

Closures: snaps or velcro. Velcro is generally easier to put on a squirming baby than snaps but, that also means that a baby determined to streak can get them off easier. Also, snaps generally last longer than velcro but since high quality velcro is used, it will usually get through 1-2 babies. The snaps usually outlast the diaper itself.

Well, there you have it! We have loved cloth diapering thus far. Sure, there has been the occasional time where in the middle of the night the kid will poo and I'll think, "a disposable would be so much easier right now" but for the most part, I prefer them over disposables. We've had far fewer leaks, no diaper blow-outs, and they're just so stinkin' cute!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

All that baby stuff

Brennan and I were talking today about some of the baby items we bought when we were expecting and which ones were hardly used and which ones we couldn't live without, even though we thought they might be silly at the time.

Use it just about every day:
Moby Wrap
Changing table/dresser
Nursing pillow (when he was younger)

Hardly use it:
Exersaucer (Hyrum hates it...go figure)
Baby monitor
swaddlers (just used a blanket to swaddle when he was younger)
stroller (used it much more when he was little, hardly use it now)

How about all of you? What baby gear did you find absolutely essential and what became house clutter?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A refreshing view on child development

The other day I got a dinner invitation via email from someone in our ward. We've met them a couple times but nothing substantial. In the email she mentioned that our sons would like to play together because even though Hyrum is 5 months old and her son is 15 months old, her son is "a little delayed."

Maybe this is silly, but I found this so refreshing. No massive explanation and no excuses. I have seen their family in church and by physical appearances, I could tell that their son was having some challenges but boy, do those parents love their kid! And so does just about everyone else in the ward. He seems sweet as can be.

In all of my "my kid needs to be developing properly" concerns, I sat back one day and wondered, "what if he walks a little later than other kids?" or "what if he were to be developmentally challenged?" My thoughts went in two directions, "well, I'll love him of course!" and "well, it would probably be my fault." Silly me should just consider the former.

I think our society of parenting is so ridiculously caught up in having the smartest, the cutest, the most advanced, the brightest, the IT kid. From special toys to early schooling to exposing our fetus to classical music, we're bombarded with ways to further the advancement of our kids. But, with few exceptions, our kids are probably going to turn out the way they're going to turn out.

I mean, sure, we can give them opportunities and there's nothing wrong with sharing our love for classical music with our babies but, come on! Do we need to be so obsessed about it that every toy in the toy store tries to sell itself with a list of developmental milestones it helps kids to achieve? Or "smart baby" DVDs in the hopes that we, too, will have a "Baby Einstein?" And is it really that big of a deal if your baby rolls over a month later than your friend's baby? Or doesn't "sleep through the night" yet (which, P.S., isn't a developmental milestone...we've just made it one)? Basically, the only thing we can do to mess up our kids is to strap them to the ground every moment of the day and refuse to let them move. Sooner or later, when they're ready, they're going to "advance." In the meantime, maybe we should just sit back and revel in this time before they advance far enough to talk back to us and before we have to use a fog horn to wake them up in the morning.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I took on "Attachment Parenting"

(I don't know how I'll possibly be able to talk about this in one post. There are so many advantages to attachment parenting that I'll likely make separate posts about many of its principles in the future, but here is a quick run down)

I've had a number of people ask me, "so, what is attachment parenting?" or "Why do you do that?" Attachment parenting was a phrase coined by Dr. William Sears who explains it as a style of parenting that most of us would do if there were no baby books written. I'm not 100% sure about that for everyone, but for me, it's very likely true. In a nutshell, attachment parenting is making choices that help you to know your baby best and therefore be better suited to follow their cues. Some of the common choices of attachment parents are: "on-cue" feeding (breastfeeding whenever possible), co-sleeping, babywearing, child-respectful weaning, and overall just loving your baby. You don't have to do all of those things to be an "attachment parent" (well, minus the loving your baby thing!), but they really help you to know your baby. Of course, individual application advised and necessary. If you're interested in attachment parenting, your best resources is The Baby Book by Dr. William and Martha Sears.

So, why attachment parenting for me? Well, that's a little bit of a journey. My baby Hyrum was brought into this world with an epidural, a bassinet, a stroller, disposable diapers, and I was committed to breastfeeding as long as it worked. I wanted to give birth without an epidural but figured I didn't have it in me. I was pretty sure co-sleeping would wreck a marriage. While I had a Moby Wrap from the beginning and planned on using it extensively, I was turned off by comments I'd read about "sling wearing" parents who were basically destroying their children's lives. And, I was scared about breastfeeding while in school.

Then, little by little, things changed. Breastfeeding felt like the most natural thing in the world. I had intentions of getting my baby "on a schedule" and had even been told by one of my favorite profs that my baby was "manipulating" me to be held more. What a load! At the time though, I was sure she must know more than me. So, I started to worry. I started pulling back from my baby, worrying that he was truly "manipulating" me, and moved him to the crib in the next room.

And then it hit me one day. I was sitting alone with my baby and I had this terrifying thought, "I don't know how to tell when you're hungry or tired anymore! I used to know but now I don't!" I'm not joking--I really did have this thought. One thing I did know for sure, I didn't want to let my baby cry to sleep. I just didn't have the heart for it. One day I was browsing on the internet for baby sleep books and came across one called, "The No-cry Sleep Solution." I thought, now that's my kind of baby book!

I checked it out from the library and in the section about babies under four months of age, she includes some references. Two of which were Attachment Parenting by Katie Allison Garanju and The Baby Book by Dr. William Sears. I checked out The Baby Book from the BYU library and began learning about the principles of attachment parenting. Back up a couple months and the ONLY exposure I had to attachment parenting was from a book called On Becoming Babywise which, in short, isn't a big fan of attachment style parenting. (We should note that while I was reading this book I had two thoughts, "This attachment parenting thing sound awful" and "this attachment parenting thing sound amazing.") I was a little torn. Now what to do...

Well, I did what any sensible person would do. I put it on hold. I was in the middle of trying to finish up my graduate degree and was remarkably insecure as a new mom. I just didn't want to deal with it right then. So I didn't.

About the time that we were moving to Canada, I found myself with a lot more time on my hands. I started reading. Internet sites, child development materials, Dr. Sears's book, and talking with other moms. The main draw for me: Attachment parents were absolutely in love with their children. They had great marriages; healthy, thriving babies; and were remarkably confident in their parenting. Now that's the kind of mom I wanted to be! I was tired of worrying if I was doing things right. I was tired of worrying that my baby wasn't like all of the babies I had read in other books. I was tired of not believing that I knew what was best for my baby.

After some visits with our pediatrician, I was filled with confidence that our cue-fed baby was developing beautifully and was in excellent physical condition (isn't it great that rolly polly is great condition?) so I figured, "why not give this a shot?!"

During the move, I consistently co-slept with Hyrum because I figured it was best with all of the different living spaces to always have one constant--me! When we moved into our apartment in Calgary, we tried to put him in the crib and he just wouldn't take it. Brennan and I had some discussions about what we thought was best and we decided the following things were important to us: couple time, quality sleep, and not crying it out. So we concocted our own way of doing things--musical beds. Hyrum sleeps in his crib for the first part of the night and we bring him to bed with us after the first night feeding. It's been a glorious way for us to have the best of all worlds. Nothing is sweeter to me than seeing my husband cuddle with our baby in the morning when we wake up. Tellin' ya girls,a man is never so attractive as when he is being so wonderful and gentle with a baby.

Next up was babywearing. This one mostly came out of convenience. We have etched concrete floors in the main part of our new apartment. Even by putting a blanket down on them, they're awfully hard. I don't really like putting Hyrum down on them and if I need to do something in the kitchen, I don't like leaving him at the other end of the house by himself. The Moby Wrap became my best friend. Also, since we live in a basement apartment, I absolutely hate dragging that stroller up our narrow stairs. I do from time to time but if I don't have to, then I figure why do it?

On-cue breastfeeding was something we were already doing. I tried scheduling Hyrum when he was a new baby and it just didn't feel right so I stopped. So, not much change there.

As far as weaning goes, we're just not there yet. I thought about introducing solids at 4 months but after doing some research, we decided to wait until at least 6 months. Hyrum does show interest in solids but he basically shows interest in just about anything that could (or couldn't) go in his mouth so I figured that wasn't a good enough of a reason and by feeding on-cue, his body doesn't need solids to stay full.

There are the individual choices but added up, the main reason I "do" attachment parenting is because I feel so much more confident in my parenting. I feel like I know my baby so well and know how to make choices that are good for him and for me. Though I thought this way of parenting would feel too "baby centered" (which is definitely what it sounds like), I actually have such a wonderful relationship with Hyrum now that I feel privileged to spend this kind of time on him. In fact, applying the principles of attachment parenting has really helped with my postpartum depression. I feel much more confident and "whole."

Now here's the big question: Am I spoiling him? I don't think so. For one, across the board, child development specialists agree that you can't spoil a child in the first year of life. Needs and wants are the same thing and that by helping them to meet their needs now, they will be more independent as they grow. Also, I really like a quote from Dr. Sear's book that basically says that spoiling is something we do when we leave food on a shelf to rot. I think the only way I could spoil him is if I replace what he really needs (loving parents, human interactions, touch, etc.) with things. By spending time on him rather than relying on a ton of toys to entertain him, I feel that I'm teaching him what really matters in this world--people, relationships, and his family. And that's why I'm an attachment parent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Held too much

Is that even possible? I recently came across a statistic that babies within the United States are only in physical contact with another human being 25% of the time. This includes hugging, cuddling, holding, breastfeeding, and any other form of physical contact. 25% seemed awfully low to me. Looking at how much I hold Hyrum, it seems as if most of his day is spent in my arms, in a sling-type wrap, or sitting in my lap while I hold him. In fact, I almost feel like it's the odd time when I put him in an exersaucer to take a shower or in the bouncer while I make supper. I know I definitely hold him more than the average mom but again, that seemed super low.

That is, until I went for a walk today. It was such a beautiful day. Hyrum was getting a little sleepy, I wanted some exercise, and I had a book I wanted to finish reading. So, I put on my Moby Wrap, grabbed my book, and we headed out for a walk. As expected, Hyrum nodded right off and I got some great "me" time as I read and walked around the neighborhood. I reveled in the fact that I could have the best of all worlds--exercise, reading time, and close physical contact with my baby.

As I walked I encountered a number of people and received a number of comments. The first was from a three year old girl who questionably exclaimed from inside a car, "What are you doing!?" I actually wasn't sure she was talking to me until I heard her mother say, "She's holding her baby!" Nothing profound, just cute.

A little bit up the road I ran into an elderly woman out for a walk. She exclaimed, "Wow! How's that for multitasking! That is wonderful." As we passed one another I thought of how she must fondly look back on her mothering years. Nothing like a grandma to know how fast the years of babyhood fly and how precious they are.

Next up was a mom who seemed to be reluctantly pulling her two little girls in a wagon. One of them was definitely small enough that she could have been easily carried. Her comment to me as she passed me was, "those things get too hot, don't they." I casually agreed that it was a little warm but thought to myself, "I feel great! Who wouldn't want to be holding their baby when they could, even if they were a little warm?"

Later that afternoon my neighbor invited me to go for a walk with her and a lady from her church. It was the same lady who came with us to the jewelry party. I thought for a second as to whether I should take the Moby Wrap or the stroller. I chose the wrap. I mean, it's what I preferred and it's what my baby definitely prefers, so why not? My only concern was that I would get comments from the other mom about transporting my baby in a sling. That seemed like a silly reason to make a decision. Sure enough, we got around the corner and she proceeded to tell me how much her daughter hated it the one time she wore her in a sling. I agreed that the first few times were a little tricky but with practice on my end, Hyrum came to love the thing. I mean, seriously LOVE it.

As we kept walking, my neighbor's baby started to fuss. You could tell the poor little kiddo had had enough of that stroller and just wanted out. After trying to calm him in the stroller, my neighbor simply picked him up and he stopped crying. My neighbor sure didn't seem to mind and her baby was much happier. The other mom casually commented on how babies will do that--fuss until you pick them up, carry them or do "some other thing like that you're not supposed to do."

My jaw seriously almost hit the ground. Really??? Not supposed to pick up your baby? Who decided that was the rule? Especially when the poor little kiddo can't really go anywhere on their own, can't see anything but their immediate surroundings without your help, and most of all, want your loving touch. How is giving your baby better mental and physical stimulation and most importantly, loving touch, something you're not "supposed" to do?

I was obviously mistaken. Maybe 25% of the time really isn't a low estimate.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why don't you "cry-it-out"?

"Crying-it-out" (CIO) almost seems like a rite of passage for today's parents. From friends to parenting books to some pediatricians, it is touted as the only way to get your baby to "sleep through the night." As such, many people have wondered why our family doesn't plan on letting our babies "cry-it-out."

My parents never let any of us "cry it out." When I was a kid, it sounded like the harshest thing in the world. But in readying ourselves for parenthood, it seemed like my parents were perhaps the exception. At first I figured that we, too, would have to resort to CIO because, well, that's what everyone told us we would have to do. However, after quite a bit of research on both sides of the argument and some heartfelt searching, we have chosen to not let our babies "cry it out." Here are our reasons why:

1) Babies are not one-size-fits-all: While there are certainly trends and averages in baby needs, no two babies are the same. As such, supposing that all babies could or should be "sleeping through the night" at such-and-such an age is faulty. To force a child to sleep through the night before they are ready could have negative health, emotional, and developmental consequences.

2) Increased risk of SIDS: As I mentioned in my post about co-sleeping, cultures in which bed sharing is the norm, the rate of SIDS is lower and in some cases, non-existent. One of the reasons this is likely so is because in these same cultures, crying-it-out is considered abusive and is virtually unheard of. In the first year of life, night wakings are part of a baby's survival techniques. If a baby sleeps too long or is in too deep of a sleep, the rate of SIDS is significantly higher. This is because their biological clocks, essentially, don't "wake" them to save them from falling into too deep of a sleep.

3) Unhealthy bodily changes in babies: When babies are left to cry alone for extended periods of time, their heart rate and blood pressure increases, muscles tense, and their bodies are flooded with harmful stress hormones. Extended crying in babyhood has been linked to ADHD, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, violent outbursts, and anti-social behavior in children.

4) Goes against a mother's natural tendencies: It's incredible how mothers know their baby's cry from any other baby. Even as early when I was in the hospital after giving birth, I could tell if it was my baby or another baby that was being wheeled down the hall from the nursery. I believe this recognition is very important for mothers and babies. It is a survival technique for the baby and a bonding technique for the mother. When a mother's baby cries, like her baby, her heart rate rises, milk flows to her breasts, her blood pressure rises and she feels a legitimate need to tend to her baby. In ignoring a baby's cry, a mother causes herself the same type of physical changes that would occur during an intense argument or following a traumatic event.

5) Reduces parents and babies confidence in sending/receiving cues: Babies cry for a reason. It's their only way to communicate. When parents ignore their baby's cries, it causes them to lose confidence in their abilities to communicate their needs. As such, many babies will stop crying at night (the sign of "success") because they know their cries will not be responded to. This could prove dangerous in the case of a life-threatening situation (i.e. baby has blanket caught over her head but since she's in her crib, doesn't cry for help) or discomforting (i.e. baby is cold, teething, sick, or otherwise uncomfortable but doesn't cry for help). For parents, it results in less sensitivity towards their babies cues. When crying is ignored, it is hard to be able to ascertain what the crying is for.

6) Can result in a detached baby: Similar to the previous point, babies who are left to cry may feel rejected by their loving parents. Though the parents know they're trying to teach the baby a skill, babies don't understand that. All they understand is that they have been left. This can lead to feeling abandoned and can result in babies who are fussy, "not there", or otherwise apathetic.

7) My heart can't take it: When we're driving in the car or I otherwise truly cannot tend to my crying baby, my heart hurts but I know there's nothing I can do in that moment. I don't think my heart could take it when there is something I truly can do--go in and pick up my baby, rock him, hold him, nurse him, or otherwise give him comfort.

8) Sometimes it simply doesn't "work": Some babies truly will not give up. They vomit, they bang their heads against the crib, they cry for hours, etc. and still will not let up. Unfortunately, the only way to know if your baby will or will not respond to CIO is to try it. We're not willing to take that gamble. Also, even if it does "work", in that after a few days your baby doesn't cry when you put him down to sleep in his crib, bouts of teething, vacation, visitors, or any other disruption to baby's schedule may require parents to do it all over again. I don't think I could put myself or my baby through multiple rounds of CIO.

9) Babies have nighttime needs: While a baby may not need (in the sense that they can survive without it) a night feeding or a cuddle, most of us adults desire a snack, a glass of water, a trip to the bathroom, etc. in the middle of the night. I don't know many adults who go without one of those things for 12 hours from 8pm to 8am, so why do we expect that of our littlest ones?

10) Babies have feelings too: I don't know about everyone else out there, but if I was having a hard day or a hard time acquiring a certain skill, I would feel awful if my husband left me to just "cry it out" alone. In fact, I would feel awful about myself and would likely resent him for ignoring me, even if it was in my "best interest."

11) This world needs more love: I especially think about this with subsequent children. If my preschooler were to watch me intentionally ignore his baby brother or baby sister's cries, then what does that teach him about empathy and compassion? Tending to my baby's needs will show older children that we should respect one another's feelings and "comfort those who stand in need of comfort."

All this being said, I know many loving parents who chose to let their baby cry it out. Most say they felt awful, but their mother/pediatrician/friend/book told them this is what you have to do to help your baby learn to sleep. In reality, if it really did only take a few nights and if things did go as smoothly as "the books" say it will go, likely, no harm has been done. All in all I think families need to make the decision whether or not to cry-it-out. But, I do think it should be an informed decision rather than one based simply off of what someone else (books, pediatrician, friend, grandma, etc.) who doesn't know your child nearly as well as you do, says you should do.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nursing in public

As a mom to a 2-3 month old baby, I could easily cover up. No big deal at all. He almost seemed to like being snuggled in and warm. But now he's a bit older and much more curious and he absolutely hates having a nursing cover over his head. I even have one of those fancy bebe au lait covers with the boning so I can see him but still, no go.

I used to wonder why women made such a big deal about being made to cover up in public. I figured it wasn't that big of a deal so why create a stir? Well, here are a few reasons:

1) Curious babies. Once babies get to a certain age, they want to be able to see what's going on around them. Think about yourself and your morning bowl of cereal. Do you focus intently on your bowl of cereal and nothing else? No! You look around, read the cereal box, talk to someone at the table with you, read the paper, etc.

2) Comfort. I get hot just putting it over myself but can you imagine if your head and face were covered? No wonder the kiddos don't want it over their heads. They're too stinkin' hot!

3) Rude? Why in the world do we feel it is rude to see a baby nursing? Frankly, I've been at the table with much worse before. Try sitting next to someone who eats with their mouth open. Disgusting. But, no one goes up to them and asks them to please put a cover over their heads. Tell you what, when no one talks with their mouth open anymore, I'll consider thinking its rude for my child to be seen eating in public.

4) Modesty. Isn't that the main argument? That it's immodest? Please tell me why we tolerate low-cut shirts and Victoria Secret advertisements but we can't tolerate a woman nursing her baby in open. I think a lot of it actually has to do with male misogyny. Wildly attractive woman showing off her breasts versus an average-looking woman using hers for a natural purpose. One doesn't need to think too long about that. Also, I don't know about anyone else, but I almost feel as if I'm showing off more by having my baby pull the cover up than I would if I just nursed him openly.

5) Good example. Nursing in public shows others, hopefully young women and girls, that nursing is natural and a desirable thing to do. In fact, I love the idea of nursing dolls. I think we should eliminate bottle feeding dolls and show young girls that nursing is what mommies do.

But, that being said, I still cover up in public. I wish I had the courage to just nurse anytime, anywhere but to be honest, I get scared. I don't think there is anything wrong with it at all. In fact, I think we should be nursing openly. Anyone want to join me on a crusade to make it okay? How would one go about doing that without being labeled as "subversive?"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Book Review: The No-cry sleep solution

I was easily drawn to this book because of it's no-nonsense title. It tells you exactly what the plan is from the get-go: get your kid to sleep without having to "cry it out." It's kind of refreshing after all of the other baby sleep books with titles that sound like they're going to deliver, but then you find out that it's just another proponent of the tired, old "cry it out" advice--new title, different packaging, same message.

However, before presuming that this book is going to solve all of your problems, there are a few things to keep in mind:
  • This plan is going to take time. Many of the other baby sleep plans suggest that their methods will only take 3-5 days. This plan truly will take 1-3 months to see the results you're searching for. Good news is that the author tells you this from the very beginning so there are no surprises.
  • She's an attachment parenting mama. For me, that's wonderful. I really agree with a lot of the philosophies and practices behind attachment parenting. In fact, I even credit this book for helping to solidify some of my thoughts on parenting. But, if attachment parenting really isn't your thing, this book might not be for you.
  • "Sleeping through the night" is defined by the medical definition of 5 consecutive hours of nighttime sleep. She promises that by following and adjusting your personal sleep plan, you can help your baby to achieve this milestone. If you're looking for a plan this promises 12 hours of consecutive sleep by next week, again, probably not for you.
From what I can see, here are a few of the pros and the cons to this book and her sleep suggestions

  • Proper perspective. The author writes from the perspective of a mother. The large majority of sleep books are based on charts, faceless statistics, and graphs. This book is written by a mother who implemented these sleep strategies with her own children and oversaw their implementation with a large number of test-mommies and babies.
  • Informative. Contains a lot of information about sleep facts and sleep needs for babies, children, and adults. Her research is well-founded and well-documented.
  • Personalized approach. A large number of suggestions are given and families are instructed to develop their own, personalized sleep plan based off of these suggestions. This allows families to pick and choose those things that are possible for them and options they feel the most comfortable with (see the con associated with this). She also clearly marks which suggestions are geared toward crib vs. co-sleeping and breast vs. bottle feeding babies.
  • Reasonable approach. Throughout the book, she constantly reminds families, "if you're getting frustrated or you just can't do it tonight, try next time." Also, for those parents who are dangerously sleep deprived or otherwise unable to follow their prescribed sleep plans, she gives some great suggestions to ensure a more gentle approach should you chose to "cry-it-out."
  • Parenting philosophy. As I mentioned before, she's an attachment mama. If that's not your cup of tea, this book may come across as "preachy."
  • Overwhelming number of suggestions. Since there are a large number of sleep solutions, some families may become overwhelmed by all of the options and may try all of them at once. This may lead to burn-out.
  • Time. This program takes weeks to months of implementation before results (large or small) may be seen. For dangerously sleep-deprived families, this may be too long of a time for safety reasons.
  • Anxiety inducing. Maybe this one is just for me, but she suggests keeping track of your baby's sleep every 10 or more days. For me, it just made me more anxious about my baby's night wakings.
  • Less sleep now. No matter what sleep solution you choose, cry-it-out or otherwise, this solution may result in less sleep for mom (or dad) while the sleep solutions are being implemented
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Even though it's a bit sentimental and over-the-top at times, it is one of the better-written parenting books I've read. The author is well-researched and her writing style is conversational and easy-to-follow. I also really enjoyed how individualized her sleep plans are as well as her overall tone.

One of the main things that I really appreciated is how reasonable the author is. So many books present "if you don't do it my way, your kid is going to have problems forever" mentality. This book is not one of them. The author acknowledges that parents have choices and those choices do have consequences; but for the most part, you're not going to destroy your child. In fact, from the get-go she talks to parents about their willingness to give up the night wakings. For some people (me included), they're really not a big deal and are even enjoyed at times. That being considered, we've made the choice to implement some suggestions but not worry too much about it. For the most part, our baby is sleeping better. He still wakes a few times a night but that's definitely manageable.

For me, the best part about this book was how I walked away with greater perspective. The author presents it as a book about helping your baby to sleep better, not a parenting program. As such, I've been able to see sleep as just one component of my life and my baby's life. My foremost goals for my baby are to help him feel secure, loved, and respected. This book helped me to see that I can hold true to those goals while still working towards a full-night's sleep.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Last night I went out to a "girl's night" to one of those over-priced jewelry parties with my neighbor. Since it was a rather extended drive to the party, we carpooled with a lady from her church. All three of us were fairly new moms--Me with a 5-month-old, neighbor with a 7-month-old, and her friend had an 8-month-old. For each of us, it was one of the first times we had been out without our babies in quite a long time. Of course, true to any car filled with mothers, we talked about nothing but our babies the whole time.

As we were driving, the friend mentioned she had moved over to formula because here supply dried up when her daughter was about 3-months-old. I thought, "how unfortunate! I absolutely adore nursing my little guy." But, she didn't seem to mind. It seemed as if she liked formula feeding more. Now, mind that I don't know this woman at all so there could certainly be a deeper story of which I'm just unaware.

As we got talking, she mentioned that she used the Babywise program. For any of you who know me, you know I'm not the biggest fan but to each her own. However, I did begin to wonder if this didn't affect her ability to produce milk. This isn't the case with all Babywise moms, but in my research, early weaning is quite common. As this mom had experienced, their milk supply slowly declines because they did not allow needed cluster feeds, and eventually, they are no longer able to breastfeed.

But, this is not a post about Babywise. This post is about priorities. As we continued driving, I discovered that this woman was quite interested in nutrition. She told us her theories about not introducing sugar to her children. Though she doesn't have any dogs, she told my neighbor (who has two dogs) about he research into raw versus commercial dog food and how it's so much better for the dogs.

Now, I don't know this woman's life and I'm not in a position to question her decisions, but from her casual attitude regarding breastfeeding, I wondered if she had done any research into the benefits of breast milk over formula, how to boost her supply, or simply, considered why it had declined in the first place. Obviously she cared a lot about nutritional choices so, why didn't the switch to formula seem to bother her at all?

As I arrived home, I discovered that Hyrum had been screaming for hours and had only gone down a few minutes before I arrived home. Honestly, it didn't really surprise me. He had taken awful naps all day. Being overtired in conjunction with the absence of mommy in his nighttime routine must have really thrown him off. At first I felt guilty for leaving but realized that I really do need time out as well. However, I could have done more during the day. During the day, I kept having this nagging feeling that I really should be sure he got a good nap, even if it meant that I had to sacrifice some cleaning time to lie down with him. But, I really wanted to get a few specific things done and in consequence, sacrificed my son's naps. I knew better. I knew that getting my son overtired in conjunction with a change was going to cause problems. Poor Brennan was the one who had to pay for my inconsideration that evening.

At the end of all of this, I was left considering priorities. How frequently do we make a decision in the moment that is convenient, even when we know deep down that it will have more lasting negative consequences? I try not to, but I know I certainly sacrifice the most important for lesser important things sometimes. Hopefully I'll think more carefully about my decisions in the future.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coping after a Cesarean

I've been a little hesitant to post about my feelings following the birth of my now 5-month-old son. But again, maybe this will be helpful for someone else.

I think the worst part about having a cesarean is the guilt I felt in the following weeks and months. I was not satisfied with my birth experience (with the obvious exception of having a beautiful baby!). My postpartum experience with my doctor and even a nurse practitioner at the same clinic left me feeling hopeless. I had little to no confidence in my body's ability to bear children. I questioned if I had done what I could to ensure a safe and satisfying delivery for me and for my family. In short, I felt like a failure.

The worst part is that I felt guilty about feeling guilty. "I should just accept it and move on," I thought. "I should be grateful for what I DO have--a healthy baby and a body that is recovering well." "I shouldn't look back and wonder, 'what if...'" But I did! In the weeks following my delivery, I continually questioned my own judgment and mourned what I felt to be the loss of a beautiful experience.

The only way I could console myself was to say, "next time. Next time it will be different. I'll make different choices next time." When my doctor told me to just err on the side of a repeat cesarean, I felt that I had maybe even lost the one consolation I had left. I truly cried for nearly two days straight. My heart hurt in a way it had hurt very few times before in my life.

Thankfully, a few months have passed and the hurt has mostly subsided. I was blessed to have made friends with a wonderful nurse at the same clinic. I explained my desire for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) with subsequent births. She readily accepted my desire. I also explained my feelings of hopelessness. I thought these feelings were nothing that wouldn't pass with a little bit of time. She had the understanding to see that it was something more. I was suffering from postpartum depression. She helped me to seek some treatment that greatly benefited me, my family, my ability to complete my schooling, and positively affected my entire life. Sometimes I wonder what could/would have happened without her loving intervention. I'm grateful I don't have to know.

But here I stand today, still upset by my experience. In the months before I gave birth to my sweet Hyrum I had two nagging thoughts--thoughts that I attribute to Provincial inspiration. One was, "you need to be prepared to have a birth without pain relief." The other was, "you'll likely end up in a cesarean." I pushed the second thought out of my mind over and over again and attributed the first to me being silly. Sadly, I think if I had heeded the first thought, the second would not have become a fulfilled prophesy.

Now, before I scare every woman out there from having an epidural, the epidural is not what caused me to need a cesarean. But, my baby was posterior and that is likely what was causing the monitors to register fetal distress. If I had not been medicated, I could have walked or squatted during labor and thereby, may have avoided a cesarean.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda...obviously not much I can do about it now. But, one thing I can do is come to terms with my disappointment. Most of the time I just shove it out of my mind and think, "too late to do anything now." In reality, it is too late to do anything about my prior birth experience. However, I have learned a lot about myself and a lot about emotional healing. Most importantly, I've learned that it truly is okay for me to feel remorse about my experience. It doesn't lessen my love for my baby and it doesn't lessen my personal worth. It does make me look forward to the possibility of a different experience in the future.

Another baby isn't in the plans for a little while but in the meantime, I plan on educating myself as much as possible on how to increase the likelihood of a successful VBAC. Part of that includes being willing and ready to have a birth without unnecessary medical interventions. This entails emotional and physical strength and readiness.

If you have had a cesarean or are otherwise feeling regrets about your birth experience, realize that it is perfectly alright. No one would tell you to "move on" after the ending of a serious relationship or the loss of a loved one. Likewise, know that it is healthy and normal to grieve an experience (whether it be birth or otherwise) that didn't go as planned. There is hope and there are options. If you're interested in VBACs, please check out the website for the International Cesarean Awareness Network.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The benefits of co-sleeping

First of all, I should mention that before I had my baby I swore I would NEVER co-sleep. It seemed far too dangerous and I (mistakenly) thought that it didn't teach babies to be independent. With that in mind, I completely understand if half of you choose to completely ignore this post. We actually didn't begin consistent co-sleeping until our baby was about 3 months old because I was so scared of rolling over on baby or having him become entangled in the bedding. However, now that I am acquainted with safe co-sleeping practices, I would and do feel comfortable co-sleeping with a baby at any age.

When a couple prepares for the birth of a new baby there is almost always the creation of a nursery complete with a rocking chair, a changing table, pictures of cuddly animals on the wall and most importantly, a crib. However, when the little baby is brought home the new parents notice that the baby doesn't like being alone in a crib or a bassinet--and with good reason! Baby's been sharing the bed with Mommy and Daddy for 9 months and then very suddenly she's expected to be alone. Womb one day, solitary crib the next--talk about a tough transition!

The decision to co-sleep is one that should be made wisely and it truly isn't for everyone. Some parents can't sleep well with baby in bed and some babies do sleep better in their own bed. Some parents aren't willing or are unable to give up things that would make for a safe co-sleeping arrangements. Others simply don't want to do it and that's fine too. But, if you're on the fence, here are some wonderful benefits afforded to co-sleeping families.

Better (and more!) sleep for mom and baby: While studies show that mothers who co-sleep with their babies are awakened more frequently, the wakings are usually briefer and occur in lighter stages of sleep. This allows for mother and baby to both return to sleep quicker. Often times mom is able to respond to baby without even fully awakening. This was especially helpful for me, personally, because when my new baby would wake up and I would tend to him in the next room, I would be wide awake by the time he fell back asleep. I began suffering from bouts of insomnia. Once I began co-sleeping with my baby, I was able to quickly tend to him and return to sleep. In the morning, both of us were much better rested.

More bonding time: This is especially worthwhile for working parents who feel they do not see their children enough during the day. Being a stay-at-home mom, I obviously have lots of time during the day to spend with my baby but a lot of that time is spent doing housework, running errands, or otherwise taking care of the to-do list. Co-sleeping affords us some quality time together when that is our only concern--being together. Also, it allows my husband more time to be near his son. Some absolutely beautiful moments have been spent with my husband putting his arm around me and holding our little baby's hand.

Developmental benefits: Studies have shown that children who co-sleep are more independent and have better self-esteem than those who practice solitary sleep: routinely sharing the parents’ bed in infancy has been associated with greater self-reliance and social independence at preschool age than a history of solitary sleeping (Keller, M. A., and Goldberg, 2004).

Makes Dad aware of night wakings: While I don't have any scientific or developmental reasons for mentioning this, having my husband more aware of our baby's night wakings and nighttime needs helps me to feel greater support from him. He has also been more involved with helping to soothe our little baby if he briefly awakens, helping him to easily go back to sleep with a gentle pat or a soothing touch.

Easier breastfeeding: C0-sleeping babies breastfeed more frequently and with greater ease than solitary sleeping babies. More frequent feedings can be especially helpful for newborn babies who are struggling to gain weight or for mothers who are not producing enough milk. This can be especially useful for working mothers who are pumping. Night feedings also ensure that older babies who are otherwise too distracted or too active to take full feedings during the day are getting enough breast milk. Co-sleeping mothers are also more likely to continue breastfeeding longer.

Reduced anxiety: Any mother will tell you that the most ridiculous thoughts concerning your baby will pop into your head in the middle of the night. When my baby was sleeping in a separate room, I would have irrational thoughts of someone stealing him in the middle of the night. I would also worry that maybe he had stopped breathing. I seriously would get up 4 or 5 times in a one-hour period to make sure he was still there and still breathing. I had one friend tell me that she would concoct thoughts of her baby finding a Cheerio in her bed and choking on it in the middle of the night. Whatever the thoughts and no matter how silly we know we are for having them, mommies worry and worry keeps a person awake. Having my baby next to me allows me to check on him easily without waking myself up or filling myself with anxiety.

Greater safety for baby: In conjunction with the last point, co-sleeping babies are actually safer than solitary sleeping babies when safe co-sleeping precautions are taken. Co-sleeping mothers are much more aware of their babies and are easily aroused if something is amiss (i.e. choking, caught under a blanket, etc.) In countries where co-sleeping is the norm, the rate of SIDS is significantly less than it is in the US and in some of these countries there has never been a SIDS death.

Co-sleeping babies and mothers are biologically connected: Studies have shown that when a breastfeeding mother and her baby co-sleep, their circadian rhythms align. This is why co-sleeping mothers report feeling better rested than those who practice solitary sleeping. When baby awakens, mom was in a light sleep as well and therefore awakens easily and falls back asleep easily. Mothers seem to be wired to share sleep with their babies.

Greater satisfaction with baby: Polls have shown that mothers who co-sleep are less likely to believe their child's night wakings are problematic than those who practice solitary sleep. I can add personal testimony to this. While there are certainly nights when my baby's night wakings seem like a hindrance, since we have started co-sleeping, those nights seem far more the exception than they did before.

Again, co-sleeping isn't for every one or every family. Before making the decision to co-sleep, both parents need to be on board. Having Mom and Baby in bed with Dad on the couch certainly isn't conducive to wholesome family relationships. If one or both parents are opposed to the idea of co-sleeping, you can consider some other possibilities including an Arm's reach co-sleeper, a sidecar crib arrangement, having baby in the same room but not in the same bed, or moving baby to his own room all together.

Another thing to consider in the decision to co-sleep is couple time. Many couples worry about how co-sleeping will affect their time for emotional and/or physical intimacy. Obviously, that is an arrangement that is best made between partners. Some people are perfectly fine sharing those moments with baby next to them but most of us are a little squeamish. If having baby in bed with you while being physically intimate is fine by you, then by all means, go for it. Baby certainly doesn't know what's going on and isn't going to remember a thing. If it touches a sensitive nerve for you, then consider playing musical beds. In our family, baby sleeps in his crib for the first part of the night so my husband and I can spend some much needed time together without having to worry about waking baby up. It also ensures that we can leave the room (baby shouldn't be left alone on a parent bed, especially once she can get up and explore!) and come and go as we please. When baby wakes up, he's welcomed into our bed. Strangely, I look forward to that first night waking.

In summary, do what works best for you and your family. For us, co-sleeping has been a wonderful way to increase our closeness as a family and to provide for our nighttime needs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A glimpse into the future

I was holding my sweet baby tonight as he drifted off to sleep and I began thinking about how fast these moments flee. As I held him tight I thought, "isn't it crazy that all of us started out as babies? And all babies grow up to be children, adults, grandparents, etc.? As these thoughts filled my mind I was filled with a sense of awesome and wonderful responsibility. I'm not simply raising a baby--I'm raising a neighbor, a husband, a father, a Young Men's leader, a mentor, a friend. Suddenly, the parenting choices I make seem so much more worthwhile and the little setbacks seems so silly.

So then I started thinking, "what do I want for my little baby more than anything else?" I think of various personal virtues, values, talents and abilities. Tonight my thoughts turned to empathy and love. As I think back over the people in my life who have made the most lasting impression, I think of people who gave me their time and their consideration, people who perhaps sacrificed their personal desires and agendas for a moment just to listen to me or to help me in a moment of need. The people who have made the greatest impression on me are not those who were the most intelligent or who were the most talented, they were those who sacrificed themselves. That is the type of person I want to raise and therefore the type of person I need to be.

Sometimes I think, "come on kid! Do you really need to be held right now? I need to do the dishes" or "I'd really like to read this book" or, "Please go/stay asleep! I'm tired!!!" While these are definitely good and worthwhile thoughts, the dishes will stay, the book will be there next week, and I can take a nap with him in the morning. But what I need, and want, to teach him now and forever is that it's worth sacrificing one's time to help someone in need. Since I believe the best teacher is example, suddenly those dishes can wait a little longer when my little one needs to be held or needs a cuddle. Perhaps someday he too will put aside something to hold a friend who needs to cry or to cuddle with his dear wife who needs a little bit of attention. That is the man that I hope I'm raising.