Friday, September 26, 2008

Leave my Chunky Monkey alone!

So I’m all for promoting the power of breastmilk, but this silly prank by PETA goes a little too far.
The most worrisome aspect of this is that the campaign fails to point out that the alternative to breastmilk for babies (formula) is made of cow’s milk. Presumably, babies whose mothers were producing breastmilk for the ice cream market would have to be fed something – and the tainted milk scandal in China has shown us that milk used for infant formula is no more protected than any other part of our food chain.
PETA, how about doing dairy cows and humans a favour by pointing out the “absurdity” of feeding the milk of another animal to a human infant?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

La dolce vita - very, very dolce

I grew up in an Italian household (well, half) and spent a lot of time with my family as kid and teenager. So, I thought I knew Italy and Italians… but being a parent in a foreign land is an eye-opening experience.
Italians pride themselves on their food and the quality of their cuisine. But their infant and child feeding practices are spectacularly different from those in North America.
While everyone I met was impressed that I was still nursing Thomas at 18 months, they were genuinely surprised that this was possible. Much as the theory that ‘latte materno’ is the best survives, in practice, it’s quite unusual to see mothers nursing in public and most women I met didn’t nurse past a few months.
Things got even weirder. At the grocery store, they sell powdered cookies – I thought I read it wrong, but no. The powder is mixed with milk and given to infants and toddlers (and sometimes preschoolers) in bottles. It’s like a very sweet, unfortified pablum I guess. They also sell powdered chamomile and melissa mixtures, meant to be mixed with water or formula to help baby sleep – something I had never seen here, but which is common there.
While fresh healthy food is prized, there’s far less focus on what’s in prepared products. Juices, yogurts and cookies almost universally contained artificial colours, flavours and shocking amounts of sugar. I found myself intervening daily to keep my 4-year old and 18 month-old from drinking the Coke being offered.
On the flip side, it is kind of neat to look at a baby food aisle and find the culture reflected in them. Jars of rabbit, veal and prosciutto puree stand next to jars of “latte e biscotti” (again with the cookies!). Did I forget to mention the trout and vegetables?
It was a good trip, but I’m glad to be back home, where the labels make sense to me and the only powdered cookies my kids eat are the crushed ones from the floor.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No more monkeys jumping on the bed

How does that old nursery rhyme go? "One little fell off and bumped his head. Mama called the doctor and the doctor said..." Well, we had a minor furniture malfunction last week with our bed, but we thought we had it fixed (well, Dan had it fixed - I held the mattress up). But seven years, two pregnancies, two babies, a toddler, a preschooler and the occassional insolent dog later and our poor bed gave up the ghost...

Unfortunately, it gave up while I was nursing Thomas and Isabelle was next to me - but fortunately we were all awake and no one was hurt. Dan tried to repair it, but it's no use - the old king had just seen too much living, I guess.

On the upside, now that our mattresses are sitting on the floor, I've discovered that the low bed gives a really open zen feeling to the room - the old four-poster was fun, but I'm really thinking the next frame is going to reflect what's changed since that first bed seven years ago - we're steadier, we're simpler and, in every sense, we're closer to the ground.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Breastfeeding Boosts IQ

The big story this week about breastfeeding that a major study has confirmed that breastfed babies have higher IQs and that duration and intensity of breastfeeding have a cumulative positive effect. I'm happy for the researchers and that it got lots of press, but it's not exactly breaking news, folks.

The story that seems to be missed in all this is how mothers in the study were supported and the dramatic difference it made in breastfeeding rates. By using the Baby-Friendly Initiative model combining appropriate hospital policies, education and support, there was a dramatic difference in breastfeeding rates at every stage. Contrary to what some the news reports suggest, the BFI program is about supporting mothers and encouraging them to listen to their baby's cues as opposed to training them in some magic breastfeeding tricks.

It's unfortunate that this part of it has not gotten the attention that it deserves - it's not really helpful to be debating whether 5 IQ points matters in the long-run or not. Breastfeeding is the way babies were meant to be fed and this is good proof that their mothers can provide that for them when given a reasonable support system.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kids do say the darndest things

Like the jargon of any organized group, families all seem to have their own secret language that only the members share – and it’s the children who bring the unqiue words to us.

The funny little expressions they use as they are learning ways to express themselves are often fleeting, but sometimes they stick. Just ask my uncle, Carlo, who is still called “Caco” as my sister reaches her late twenties. It could have been worse, though I’m not sure that Coco would be much better than Caca.

Since these are so fleeting, I thought I’d take the chance now to share a few of Isabelle’s particularly cute or funny ones:

- greffast: as in “Daddy made me pancakes for greffast”

- dewey: not the decimal system, but rather “dirty”, now largely outgrown, but we heard it a lot during the fastidiously clean phase that preceded her current ‘devil may care’ hygiene rules

- eye-spy down: as in “pineapple eye-spy down cake”

- eye-spy up: the reverse of eye-spy down

- mamote control: oddly, Isabelle could say “télé-commande” in French well before she could say it in English and just recently dropped mamote term

So, readers, share your favourite cute ones with me…

Friday, April 25, 2008

Out of my bedroom

Pierre Elliot Trudeau famously once said that the state did belong in the bedrooms of the nation. I’m increasingly beginning to believe that the medical establishment ought to stay out of them as well, at least as relates to how young families divide their sleeping quarters and activities.

Sleep (or lack of it) is the perennial topic of conversation among new mothers – it arises invariably and, like so many parenting topics, there are camps and there is limited overlap between them.

In broad strokes, the cry-it-out camp believes that infants/young children can be trained to sleep alone for long periods and teaching this is a parent’s duty. The family bed camp believes that infants/young children develop nighttime independence at their own pace and that parents should respond to their children’s needs whether the hour is reasonable or not. There are experts who claim to be somewhere in the middle, but frankly, either you think it’s ok to let a baby cry himself to sleep or you don’t and there’s not a lot of gray.

Three guesses which camp I fall into and the first two don’t count… Yes, our king-size bed is maxed out between the two of us, Thomas and sometimes Isabelle. Yes, there are times when Dan or I are hobbled because we spent the night with a strategically placed little foot between our ribs. For us, this is the way to maximize the total amount of sleep that we all get and still ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.

Bed-sharing isn’t necessary, but it’s a survival strategy – I don’t do sleep-deprivation gracefully. I recall standing in the hallway to our room when Isabelle was a few weeks old, asking Dan where he put the baby as she lay cradled in my arms. That was the night she came into our bed - until she set up shop in her big girl bed down the hall when she was a bit past two. This was around the same time she weaned

This is the part that frustrates me about the experts who suggest that co-sleeping is taboo and that babies should learn to self-soothe. It is entirely unreasonable to suggest that a parent (whether they are working outside the home or not) should be up and down the hall multiple times per night. The risk of falling asleep with baby in a chair or tripping on the stairs in exhaustion is obvious to anyone who has ever felt that kind of exhaustion.

It is also unreasonable to suggest that every baby is able to take the necessary nutrition in their waking hours and does not “need” to eat. I’ve now nursed two children into their second year and can tell you unequivocally that their nighttime nursing sessions are when their intake is highest. If the goal is to continue nursing until age 2 or beyond, as the evidence would suggest is best for mom and baby, health-care practitioners need to start recognizing that night nursing can be key to maintaining nursing in the busy toddler and stop treating normal nightwaking as a “sleep disorder”.

Do you have strategies for dealing with nighttime parenting?

Monday, April 21, 2008

BPA Bottle Returns: better late than never

With Health Canada finally taking the sensible position on BPA, there are lots of worried parents out there, both because of what they may have been outwittingly exposed their children to and because of the significant cost of replacing all their bottles, sippy cups and even breast pumps. Add to this the fact that the #7 plastic is not easily recycled and most municipalities don't accept it and what you've got a big heap of garbage!

There is a huge long list of items that will now be on the "banned" list, but rest assured that if you have Medela pumps/bottles, you're fine.

On the other hand, if you have Avent, you can be sure that their #7 plastic does contain BPAs and that includes the Isis Hand Pump (which totally stinks, because I have one and really like it). Other manufacturers include: Dr. Brown's, Playtex and Gerber.

This blog has a pretty good explanation of what BPA is and why it's bad stuff:

The whole thing really stinks, but there is some good news in all of it: Zellers, Wal-Mart and London Drugs have all agreed to offer store credit for the now-banned items. While it's only a store credit and it doesn't negate the hassle of returning them (or the worry at having used them at all), it's a good PR move on their part. No receipts or packaging - if you have trouble be sure to ask the store manager, as this is a national campaign.


Our site is running a couple contests that I thought readers might enjoy:


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

To die for tie-die

Ok, sorry for the cheesy title, but tie-die is very in this year (so they tell me!) and my friend Kate makes very, very cool tye-die stuff in all sorts of patterns from infant all the way up to adult.

Plus, lots of her things are made with re-purposed t-shirts: giving new life to stuff that would just end getting thrown out, so they're green even though they're rainbow.

Check out her facebook page: or email her at for payment and shipping details.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Green Stuff

While the jury is still out on the effect of eating certain foods in pregnancy, it’s well-known that foods that mom eats during breastfeeding affect the taste of her milk. From the very first nursing, a breastfed baby is learning about the unique diet her family follows and receives a gentle introduction to the world of tastes. Researchers believe that this is part of the reason that breastfed babies typically accept a more varied diet and are less likely to be picky eaters.

Despite everything parents do to ensure their children eat a healthy, varied diet, pickiness often occurs in the preschool years. Isabelle ate every vegetable we offered her from asparagus to zucchini in her early years, but developed a real suspicion of anything new and “green stuff” as she approached her third birthday. This is quite a natural phase as children begin to make choices and define their own preferences.

Parents should continue to model good eating habits and offer healthy choices from which their toddlers can pick. If everything on the table is healthy, it will no harm if they only eat one dish. If all else fails, sneaking some ‘green’ into a tomato sauce is as easy as buying a hand-blender and making sure that they aren't in the kitchen while you're making the sauce. (Just don't tell Isabelle about this one - she's already a bit suspicious!)

Friday, April 4, 2008

On the road again...

Add about 1/3 to the normal time it takes to complete a trip. For example, we drove to Boston to visit friends when Isabelle was 5 months old. The trip normally took us a leisurely 8 hours pre-baby; with baby, it was a solid 12 hours. If possible, try to have one parent sitting in the back seat with the kid(s). Try to plan your departure for a time when baby isn’t asleep – that way you get some “play” time, then (hopefully) a nap before you stop for the first time.

Travelling with a breastfed baby is infinitely easier – all she needs is mama. Never be tempted to take baby out of his car seat when driving – much as his cries may be heart-wrenching. Pull off at the next safe spot and have a nurse while dad stretches his legs. If your child is older, bringing along some special snacks that they really enjoy can buy you a little more driving time.

If your trip is longer than 3 hours or so, try planning your route so that there is an attraction somewhere along the way – it will give you something to look forward to that isn’t as far as the final destination. Bringing along an extra pair of hands can be a great help during the drive and at your destination – whether it’s grandma or teenage cousin. Just be sure your “helper” is someone you want to spend your vacation with or it could be no help at all.

My only plug is that we carry a great little toddler travel pillow that’s ideal for road trips.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The best use for a barbie...

As promised, here's the finished product for Isabelle's 4th birthday: her mermaid princess cake (who knew I would end up with a girly girl?). I'm pretty proud of it - it turned out to be quite the centerpiece. Plus we got to hack a Barbie doll in half, so two good causes were achieved.
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Monday, March 24, 2008

Insult + Injury

I woke up this morning with a weird feeling I hadn't had since I was a kid - my eyes felt like they had sand in them and my left eye was so goopy it was almost sealed shut. (Hey, you don't want to hear this stuff, go read a blog about garden gnomes: mothering involves a lot of fluids),

Pink eye... ewww! And, of course, Thomas is still sick and so am I, so the thought of hauling both the children into the car to the drugstore and back is too much to bear. (Check out this great you tube video: so funny). My normal back-up plan (mum! dad!) has also been felled by this nasty cold.

So I heed a little of my own advice and take the plunge: I express a little breastmilk into a cup and use a dropper to put it in my eyes. (I told you... if you can't take it, find a gnome blogger)

And amazingly, it feels better right away. Like a lot better and it doesn't sting at all like the drops do. I've done it a couple times through the day and feel much better.

When Dan got home, he couldn't even tell, except that I made him listen to the various complaints I had after I brought him up to date on pending grievances from the children (the fish has no food and Isabelle would like to play in the (frozen poop-filled) backyard).

It's quite amazing to me that this really works for grown-up sized eye infections, but also I find it ironic that my breasts can make this amazing elixir and my eyes just can't deal with it themselves.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Having my cake...

A little known fact about me is that I have a skill for making kid's birthday cakes. It's not actually so hard when you have the equipment, but it's wicked time-consuming, so I haven't made lots in the past few years.

Really, to make an impressive centerpiece, you just need a good pan and some patience. My first foray into this was for my godson, Dylan's 1st birthday.

The next one I made was a variation on the bear: a bee for Dylan's little brother, Nicholas. It was pretty cute, despite the fact that the wings kept falling off and the black icing was kind of gross in that quantity.

The next time was for Isabelle's first birthday - no mean feat with a nursing 1 year old:

And my latest creation was for Thomas' 1st birthday. Gee, you wonder why I look tired and hyperglycemic?

Have a look at Wilton's website - a lot of the cakes could be made with standard cake pans, it's just a lot more math to do and you need a steadier hand. You definitely don't need all the fake stuff - I use a regular buttercream or cream cheese icing (yum....), oil and flour my pans as normal (just very carefully) and take my time. One thing you probably do have to buy is the black icing - you could skip it, but I don't think it's feasible to make black buttercream.

Isabelle has requested a princess cake this year - will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Snurffle, snurffle...

Ah, the spring cold.... an annual event 'round here where we don't do a lot of sickness (warnings about the onslaught pre-school would bring haven't panned out, yet). But the good news is that it's a spring cold and the tide is turning on all this snow.

It starts with a visit to the home of friends we affectionately call the Petri Dishes. Their home is warm and welcoming - and apparently, chock full of pathogens because a runny nose always follows a visit.

Then, Isabelle gets cranky and Thomas' eyes look just a touch red-rimmed. Then, just a trickle of clear mucous signals that the immune battle has begun. I've never really been big on giving little people medicine and the recent warnings about this have just underlined my institinctive feeling.

In fairness, pre-pregnancy and nursing, I was known to down copious quantities of the stuff. But I had to get to work and Isabelle doesn't need cold relief to watch Toopie & Binoo. Popsicles and honey have been doing just fine.

But the snot (like the plot) thickens and Thomas gifts me with an enormous wad of it when he sneezes out the blueberries I was handing him. As I wipe it off my cheek with my sleeve, it occurs to me that I have come a long way since our first cold... Maybe too long....

Day three and Isabelle gets ornery... I am not doing my best mothering. Treehouse TV is on a constant loop, the menu consist of apple slices, peanut butter and toast and the dog is looking at me with that "Dude, do you even remember that I need to be fed?". I want to just lie down, but there's no point.

It's time to call in the big guns... my mama. Mum shows up, changes the children into actual clothing (pjs have ruled) and waters, feeds and plays with them (and the dog, who loves her unconditionally and far more than he loves us: she feeds him). All while I sleep...

It will be better tomorrow... better be: we've got Easter eggs to make, a birthday to plan and school's back next week. Hmmm.... Mum always did great Easter eggs...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A little self pat on the back

The busyness of the last while has been in part due to an unexpected uptick in media requests about the site. It's tough for a little business to send product samples off to the wide blue yonder and cross her fingers that it will at least get opened, but we've had great feedback.

Here are a few of the recent ones:

I've also been quoted on the parenting side recently, the one that's most touching is below. It's amazing to me how raw it is still is to share that story and how hard it is to see in print, but I hope someone reads it and takes something away from it.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mothering the mama

The arrival of a new baby, whether it is the first or fifth, marks an enormous transition in the family unit, but also in each individual’s life. Mom has gone through a major physical event and baby is learning about a whole new reality! The best advice is for everyone to keep in mind how enormous this transition really is and go easy on themselves and each other in the early weeks.

Making things easy is good theme to keep in mind when preparing for the birth. Mom should have nothing to worry about but her new baby and her own recovery – this is very important in establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship and everything else should remain secondary. See this as a very brief period in a life-long investment for good health. Investing in a comfortable baby carrier will let Mom have her hands-free while baby remains secure – helping to offset the sometimes overwhelming constant needs of a newborn.

To help the rest of the family cope, frozen meals and take-out are a good start. A “casserole” shower before baby is born is a great idea.

Ensuring that older siblings feel included in the new arrival is very important to minimizing the inevitable resentment. Toy slings make a wonderful gift, making older siblings feel included while modeling the importance of baby’s closeness to Mom.

Outside help, whether in the form of relatives or paid help, can be a boon or a curse. Anyone coming to help needs to remember that they are there for Mom and Dad – not to swoon over the new arrival (hard as that is!). Mom may be feeling insecure and overwhelmed – too many suggestions about baby care may feel undermining. Even more dangerously, offering to feed baby just a bottle of formula while she sleeps sounds helpful, but in the long-run, it may damage her ability to breast-feed. Do laundry, cook meals, tidy up and play with kids, but leave the mothering of baby to Mom.

If hiring outside help such a doula, be sure to get references and interview well ahead of baby’s arrival, so that expectations are perfectly clear. Doulas can be found through their professional association,

A handy listing

It's been busy around here...

I wanted to share a great resource I recently found on the Breastfeeding Canada yahoo group: an easy-reference bibliography of breastfeeding-positive children's books. I've seen these before, but this is really well done.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

And baby makes four...

With Thomas' recent birthday, I've been reflecting a bit on the transition to little ones and looking back on it with a bit more space (and sanity).

Older siblings will often regress in their behavior, wanting to nurse or drink from a bottle if they had previously given it up or being less reliable in their potty training. In addition, older siblings will often become clingier, to one or both parents or even adopt a transitional object, like a blanket or stuffed toy, when they had never shown interest before. Isabelle definitely did all of these - adopting "Bear" as her nighttime companion.

Parents can make the transition more difficult on everyone when they do not recognize what an enormous change the older child has undergone. Understanding and compassion, along with time, will restore household peace and help forge the lifetime bond that siblings will share.

A tried-and-true tip is to have an extra-special gift for the older sibling that the new baby “brought” for them. Make believe play is very powerful to young children: older siblings should have their own “baby” and gear to mimic mom and dad. This “baby” also gives them an outlet to play out their frustrations safely. Finally, everyone will benefit if mom has a good comfortable baby carrier so that she can meet baby’s need for closeness while having her hands-free for play. There are even great matching slings for both mom and siblings. These make a wonderful shower gift - older siblings will be very proud.

In human development, there are no absolutes and very little is inevitable: parents can expect their children to react to the addition of a new sibling as they would to any major event. A happy, go-lucky kid is likely to adjust pretty quickly, irrespective of their age or gender. Conversely, a child who is resistant to changes in routine or highly sensitive to noise is likely to have more difficulty. Go easy on yourselves and each other – it’s a joyful journey once all your little travelers get along.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Store Reviewed

Thank you to Eleanor for her kind and thorough review: the Maple Landmark Toys really are special and I'm so happy to see word about them getting out! Check out Sarah's Toy Box for more.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I hate Wanana

And Chorka and Juwie and Gayson too. This is made worse by the fact that they are small children and even more so by the fact that they don’t even exist. The inner world of a preschooler is an amazing place and apparently, Isabelle’s inner world is populated with a large number of friends that only she can see.
Very normal developmentally and we really don’t have any concerns about her “outer world” socialization, so this should be one of those live and let live parenting moments. Except that Wanana is a pain in the butt and constantly wants to sleep over: when she doesn’t arrive at bedtime, Isabelle is inconsolable.
We’ve tried reasoning through this: “imaginary friends are lots of fun and they can do things that real people don’t, but remember only you can see them…”. No dice.
I’ve learned interesting things about Isabelle’s imagination: Wanana lives in Chin(not China) and is a small pixie-like creature with dark hair and eyes. Chorka is short, but not tiny with gold hair and brown eyes… It’s kind of cool.
We’ve tried playing along to the story: Dan circled the neighbourhood last night to find Juwie’s house. Where does Juwie live? Isabelle says, “Left” and that’s her only direction. They do not find Juwie’s house and Isabelle is unhappy.
I remember watching Isabelle pass a ball from one had to the other and being completely enthralled that she could do it. It amazes me that my little baby has this amazing mind that’s so rich and layered that she can create whole worlds within it. But, man, oh, man, can you kids go home to your own mothers once in a while?

Monday, February 11, 2008

On bottles and butt cream

The news has been full of studies about the chemicals we expose our babies to and what that might mean (if anything) for their long-term health. As a parent, I’m on constant watch for threats to my little ones and these types of studies strike real fear in me. What else are my babies exposed to that seems so innocent now, but will hurt them in the decades to come? Like so many things, are we whipping ourselves into a frenzy about relatively remote risks, while ignoring the obvious risks because they are too familiar?
I turn this idea around in my head a little. Why is bisphenol A news, when we approach what most parents put them (infant formula) as a simple diet choice? The infant formula has known and well documented risks, not of some vague far away serious illness, but of serious morbidity and increased mortality in the first year and throughout the child’s life. While bottle-feeding is sometimes necessary (bottles can have breastmilk in them) and bisphenol A does exist in all kinds of plastic items that older children are exposed to also, it does seem that the major source of exposure and concern is the frequent feeding of infants using these bottles.
The concern is increased by the fact that to make powdered formula safe, it needs to be mixed with very hot (just short of boiling) water, which increases the leeching risk. I saw segment on the CBC where mom bought was breastfeeding, but had purchased some “Born-Free” bottles for later: it was a reasonably good segment, but I was left wondering why a baby ever really needs a bottle and why that wasn’t the angle they chose.
Shortly after the big bottle study, came a study about phthalates and how babies exposed to powder, soap and creams containing these compounds show significant traces of them in their urine. Why is this surprising? Tiny little people have a very low body to surface area ratio – it makes sense that chemicals you apply to them will soak in at a higher rate. The risk of phthalates vs. the pesticides in their food or chemicals in their diapers and clothes seems skewed, although certainly the diseases associated with phthalates exposure are worrisome.

As with the bottle debate, there’s a legitimate use for creams and soaps, but it’s actually smaller than the marketing machine from Protor Gamble and Johnson&Johnson would suggest. Babies are bathed far too often, too soon: a bath shouldn’t become a daily activity until kids really get themselves dirty and even then, they’re rarely dirty enough to require the kind of cleaning power we apply to them. My daughter went her whole first year with a single bottle of Molton Brown Wash Baby Wash (which they don’t make anymore!) and Thomas is barely through his first bottle baby soap.

Butt creams can be handy for an occasional rash, but there’s just no good reason to lather a heavy cream all over a baby’s sensitive genitals – as my midwives pointed out, you are more likely to trap irritants than seal them out. A better method is to clean well, get lots of air on the bum and change promptly. The only time my little ones have suffered from much redness was when something they ate didn’t agree with them – and on those occasions, we’ll apply a small amount of Burt’s Bees cream, but almost four years into diapering, we’ve only been through two tubes (though we’ve lost plenty along the way).

So, in the end, while I worry what’s out there and in my home, I also feel safer in that I know that by approaching our diet, our personal care and lives with a simplified, less is more approach, we’re ahead of the game no matter what the next study says.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Great Wolf Lodge

Well, this picture isn't in their brochure, but it ought to be because it's the primary selling feature of this place: your kids will be overstimulated into complete exhaustion.

Using the tried and true OREO technique (good news, bad news, good news), I'll say the following:

The staff were impressively welcoming and helpful and the hotel is laid out very well for a family establishment. The room was spacious and Dan was thrilled to get a full night's sleep without a little foot in his rib because he got his own bed!

The food in the hotel restaurants is atrociously unhealthy, expensive and did I mention atrociously unhealthy? Plus, for little ones, the water park is not that great - there really isn't an infant area and the water slides are largely reserved for larger kids (Isabelle is tall for her age and at 4, she was borderline). Also, it costs a pretty penny.

Ah, but those water slides are wicked fun for the grown-ups - I'm not usually one for water rides, but I really had fun on them. Isabelle's verdict: "That was AWESOME, mama!". I also got to show off my pool sling that got many approving looks.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Learning the art of mothering - midwives

I’ve been reflecting lately on how much my mothering has changed since we first found out we were expecting Isabelle some 5+ years ago (wow!). In particular, I’ve been thinking about the women along the way who shared their wisdom and experience. There are a lot of books out there about mothering and babies – I’ve read a fair number of them and a couple do have some useful knowledge to pass on. But as I reflect on it, for all the time I spent reading books and scouring the internet for answers, it’s the mother-to-mother connections that imparted the things that matter.
There’s a good reason why 98% of midwifery clients are satisfied with their care – it’s a model that works for women and their families. While neither of my babies was delivered by midwives (emergency c-sections both), I attribute our survival through two rough pregnancies to their respectful and wise guidance.
That said, there’s a practical side to this mothering business and here’s what my midwives taught me:
- don’t bring a brand-new baby to church: the baby will be fine, but it will make you cry when people try to touch her
- diaper cream is more likely to trap urine/feces against the skin than protect the skin from it: air and lots of it will stave off rashes
- hold your baby and nurse her: you truly don’t have anything better to do

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Shower Themes: Meal Shower

This is an ideal shower for the mom who has the essentials and no space for more, as well as the mom of a second or subsequent child.
o Each guest brings one (or more) frozen meals to stock away for the early weeks when baby needs all mom’s attention, but the whole family still needs food!
o Bring a dish that you don’t need back soon (or a disposable one) and attach clear instructions for preparation, as well as an ingredient listing.
o Need some inspiration beyond the usual pasta casseroles? Check out La Leche League’s Whole Foods for the Whole Family. Better yet, buy two copies and give the other as a gift: it has lots of easy, healthy recipes to feed and please everyone at the table.
o Not a cook – gift cards to a local takeout restaurant will be just as welcome!

Shower Themes: A Book Shower

  • The Baby Book (William and Martha Sears): a great all-around reference book that provides accurate, up-to-date information on infant health and nutrition
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International): the comprehensive guide on how (and why) to breastfeed your baby.
  • The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers (Jack Newman): an easy reference guide for situations from common to complex.
  • The No-Cry Sleep Solution (Elizabeth Pantley): realistic expectations coupled with practical tips to help everyone get a little more shut eye (or at least worry less about it).

Baby needs a library too, so why not pick up some of these special titles:

Shower Themes: Around the Clock Shower

Guests are each assigned a time of day and bring a gift that would be used at that time.
o Breakfast: Instead of a bottle set or sterilizer, try a boppy pillow or set of burp cloths.
o Lunch time: Instead of formula dispensers or bottle-warmer, why not get mom a great nursing top?
o Walk: A sling makes a wonderful gift and supports breastfeeding by allowing mom to respond quickly to baby’s signals, as well as providing an ideal cover for discreet nursing in public. A pretty diaper bag can also be a welcome replacement to the formula-branded bags that some hospitals give out.
o Naptime: Instead of a pacifier, why not offer a beautiful warm blanket for mom and baby to cuddle under?
o Bath Time: Beautiful gentle soaps, a rubber ducky or a bathing mat are all useful for bathing new babies. Lightly scented massage oils can also be a relaxing pre-bed routine. For something a little more original, try getting mom a water carrier so that she can shower right along with baby.
o Bedtime: a lovely bassinette or co-sleeper will allow Mom and Dad to stay close to baby for easy nursing in the night.

The Baby-Friendly Baby Shower

For many first time moms, the baby shower is a rite of passage. Her friends and family enjoy celebrating the arrival of the newest little one and take the opportunity to provide for some of the things the new family will need.
Early parenthood brings much joy, but many challenges too. First-time mothers are often surprised at the obstacles they encounter in those early weeks. While most mothers in North America begin breastfeeding their infants, fewer than 20% are exclusively breastfeeding as is recommended at six months (and in some places, it’s much lower than even this). Despite the acceptance of breastfeeding as the optimal food for infants, we still live in a bottle-feeding culture.
Take a walk down the baby shower aisle of your local party store - bottles and pacifiers are everywhere from favors to plates to games. It seems hardly surprising that bottles are still so strongly associated with babies! Yet bottles and pacifiers can both be detrimental to the breastfeeding relationship when introduced too early.
So, how to throw a shower that’s fun for all and supports breastfeeding as the norm for new mom and baby?
Themes are a great way to bring a little fun to a party and help guests feel involved, though you really don’t need one. Check out the next few posts for ideas.
- Whatever matches your theme (if any): no need to go too over the top as the center of attention will be the big belly (or tiny babe).
- Keep an eye out for the ever-present bottle/pacifier, teddy bear and ducky themes are often good choices (though apparently they need soothers and bottles too!).
- Prizes can include some of the children’s books listed above, as well as more usual things like pretty potted plants, bath salts, etc….
- If you’re feeling particularly ‘lactivist’, let the party store know why you’ve purchased the items you have and that you’d like to see more items like them in the future.
- Memory Game: this is a game where participants are shown a group of baby items for a brief time and the person who remembers the most items wins! Great fun as it lets everyone participate. Instead of baby bottles and formula cans, try including breast pads, lanolin cream and perhaps even a nursing bra!
- Baby Animals: this is an easy written game. Print off a list of 15-20 female animals and have guests name their babies (i.e. elephant = calf). Throw in a couple toughies like raccoon/kit or turkey/pout.
- Charades or Pictionary: really fun games with an animated crowd. Try throwing in some breastfeeding phrases like “breast pump”, “leaking” and “let-down”.
The purpose of any party is for everyone to come away having had fun - certainly none more so than one intended to honor someone close to you as she begins a momentous new phase in her life. With some of the tips above, you can help support your guest of honor in making the right decision for her baby and family, but the intention is not to hit your guests over the head with the “message” or start up a debate on infant feeding. Keep it light and fun – as it should be!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weirdest Advice - Gross misuse of herbs II

I thought I was done with this series, but my mom of all people came out with a great one a few weeks ago and I needed to share. Thomas has been constipated for much of the last two months – not painfully so, but worrisome to us because he had some early trouble in that department that landed him in the Sick Kids NICU (fabulous people, give them money).
Mom suggests that the old-fashioned cure for this is to stimulate baby’s anus. This makes sense since that’s what a suppository would do. But her method is would definitely not pass medical muster – she suggests taking a stem of parsley dipped in olive oil and slipping it up there. She claims she’s never done it (thank goodness), but it’s an old trick.
Well, some things are better left in the past. It’s gross and possibly unsanitary (when I mention this, mom says “Well, you wash it first!”).
More importantly, stimulating baby shouldn’t be done unless the constipation is long-running and it should be used only to clear up a back log. Using it regularly can cause baby to become dependent on stimulation to poop. And a nice little glycerin suppository does the trick just fine (this is one of the few cases where I advocate buying something!).
Ok, so unless someone out there has a better one, I’ll close this series right off.