Sunday, May 31, 2009

Because that's what mammal means

This is my favourite picture from our 'safari' adventure: this wasn't the smallest baboon nursing, it seems he was more of a 'toddler' nursling.

And he had all the same mannerisms that human toddler seem to show: wanted to nurse on her hip, head leaning against her shoulder as he watched the world go by.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bake Sale

Our LLL Annual Garage & Bake Sale is coming up this weekend and I need some fresh ideas on what to make. My old standby is the cream scone loosely adapted from the Joy of Cooking and some of my mom's Mincemeat Bran Muffins (I call them Raisin Spice for marketing purposes - learned that the first year).

Mom's Mincemeat Muffins (makes 22-24 muffins)

2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk/sour cream
1 1/2 cups mincemeat
1 1/4 cups All-Bran Cereal
2 cups all purpose flour (can also do a mix of whole wheat/all purpose)
2 tsp each baking powder and baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line muffin tins. Mix together wet ingredients. Mix together dry ingredients - add to wet ingredients and mix until just combined (will be lumpy). Don't overmix divide evenly among muffin tins - Mom always used an ice cream scoop and it's the perfect size. Bake 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Batter can also be kept up to two weeks in fridge before baking and baked muffins freeze very well.

Ok - so hit me with your best bake sale recipe!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Family Outing - Model Steam Trains

I had never heard of these before, but my friend Jenn's little guy loves trains and so she's in the know about all these things. There are people whose hobby it is to build miniature steam engines that they run on tracks - and you can ride them!

We went out to the Hamilton Museum of Steam & Techonology today and spent a lovely morning riding the trains. We also checked out a Meccano demonstration and a remote control boat demonstration (yeah, it tends to the nerdy, um, scientifically-minded crowd). Thank you, Golden Horseshow Live Steamers!

The whale "driver" told me to line up my camera on Tom as he approached and I got this great sequence:

Whale! Ahoy!

Hmmm... the whale has a sprayer.
But he's wearing a little hat - must be a friendly whale.
Help! I'm taking fire! Hostile whale! Hostile whale!

Humph - let's go look at the trains again. They don't have sprayers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Five - 5 Annoying Baby Products

Adiri Nurser: Yeah, so just because it looks like a breast does not mean that it is anything like a breast. Babies don't develop nipple confusion because bottles don't look like boobies, they develop it because the mechanics of bottle-feeding are completely different from those of breastfeeding. Period. Save yourself the very expensive cost of these (apparently leaky) bottles.

Car Seat Carrier: There are so many ergonomic problems with carrying a swinging infant car seat that I don't think we even need to address the fact that car seats are meant for transporting babies in cars and there's an increasing understanding of the dangers of leaving babies in seats for extended periods. To say nothing of the potential stress something like this might place on the seats. Just pick up you baby and check the seat.

Udder Covers: While I'm all for anything that helps breastfeeding moms, I can't accept that referring to my "udders" is anything less than stupid and demeaning. Same with Hooter Hiders. The one plus is that these loud, graphic patterns do bring attention to how many moms are breastfeeding out there - which is something you can miss when they just pull up their t-shirt and their baby nurses.

Baby Bling Pacifiers: Multiples issues here - first, what about a beautiful, angelic baby screams stuff a loud, sparkly plug in my mouth? Second, given that it is in a baby's mouth, are all these nooks and crannies really hygenic? And isn't it insane to spend $20+ on something that you are nearly 100% sure to lose?

Milk Maid Bottle Holder: With everything we know about human attachment, how is it even legal to sell these things? Put aside the obvious safety concerns with leaving an infant like this - this is inhumane. The 'argument' I've seen in favour of these is that they allow parents of multiples or parents with disabilities to feed their babies without extra help. I don't buy it - if an infant can't be fed with love, then you need human hands to help, not these.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kids aren't grimy, their schools are

It seems like the swine flu (A.K.A. H1N1, aporkalypse, snoutbreak and hamdemic) has lost the collective interest of the media - or perhaps I've just stopped listening because there was nothing interesting being printed about it anymore. Like most big crises, the first wave of hysteria passed quickly and time will tell whether it was warranted or not.
In the lull, it does end up that something very interesting has come to light that matters whether the swine flu is the next 1918 virus or not. Since SARS, we've done a fairly good job of impressing the importance of handwashing - which controls the spread not only of potentially serious illnesses like influenza (of all kinds), but also common colds, stomach bugs and all manner of annoying and time-consuming illnesses. I'm consistently disappointed to see the flu vaccine touted as the primary step in public health campaigns, but simple public hygiene has made inroads. The fact that there's currently no vaccine for the swine flu leaves only hygiene to prevent the spread and I think that's a good thing no matter what - it doesn't matter whether you have a vaccine that works if you prevent the spread to begin with, after all.
I worked in a large office building in Toronto during the SARS outbreak - it was an eye opener for many workers to realize how much simple hygiene could be improved. Suddenly, cleaners wiped down door handles and bathrooms several times a day - and it made you think about why that wasn't done before. Standards rose and stayed that way (at least in our building) because businesses and the workers they employed realized how simple steps could help contain all kinds of grossness.
This time around I work out of my safe little home cocoon, so I'm not worried about grimy elevator buttons. However, Isabelle is in junior kindergarten (society's largest Petri dish) and the outbreak has brought to light serious deficiencies in hygiene within the school. In an informal poll of my mommy circle, it appears that few of us know how often schools are thoroughly cleaned or bathrooms disinfected. While handwashing is a key, in many schools, bathrooms are poorly stocked or kept in a state of disrepair. Children may avoid using them entirely, meaning that they go an entire day without rinsing the building eco-system of germs off their hands. A good discussion of this was on the section of the Toronto Star today:
In other cases, teachers and students end up relying primarily on hand sanitizer because of a lack of facilities - alcohol based hand sanitizers are not the same as hand washing and while they may be safe for an occasional use, try licking your hand after using some and see if that's what you'd want on your preschooler 6 times a day.
Parents of children in their first years of school have learned to expect a year or two of next constant illness running through their house - because, we assume, kids have bad hygiene habits and there's no way around it. Well, having seen enough snotty, drippy noses on the playground and sneezes into the communal cookie plate, I can concede that kids are definitely at a disadvantage over office workers. So, why then, do we freak out about elevator buttons and copy machines, but few of us know how often the counters in the boys' room get disinfected or the tissues are replaced? The very few who have any idea wouldn't be too happy with the answer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Five

Tamiflu safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, in a pandemic.

UK Babies to get new growth charts - new as in from the WHO in 2005, but still better than Canadian and US babies most of whom get measured on charts based on formula-fed babies from the 1960s. Courtesy of our friends at Big Pharma.

Probiotics in pregnancy and lactation could reduce obesity in women - interesting idea. I'm a big fan of encouraging gut health to reduce the risk of allergy-triggering proteins passing into the bloodstream then breastmilk... but this is another reason to pay attention to how we digest, not just what we do.

Pumping doesn't replace respect and rights for working mothers.

Protein content may contribute to obesity difference between breastfed and formula-fed infants. Uh, yes, because baby cow's need less lactose and more protein.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oh, my aching nipples - on grating teeth and gratitude

The term eruption is a good one to describe teeth coming in. Especially the molars of a toddler - he's erupting all over the place. When we were at the dentist last week, she commented that he had one just peeking through the gum and another one working on it, so we might be in for a bad week. I smugly thought, 'ha! my kids don't complain - the first I noticed Isabelle's tooth was when it bit into my finger!" I should know better than to be smug about anything by now, but I'm not.

Tom has been nursing and asking to nurse constantly since yesterday - it's like having a newborn all over again. Oh, except that newborns don't have front teeth... And they don't want to watch "Max & Ruby" while they nurse - well, maybe they do, but they get CBC Newsworld instead. And they certainly don't try to walk around while nursing...Oy, my nipples! the amber teething necklace is out again - and seemed to help a bit - but all he wants is na-nas really.

On the positive side, newborns can't tell you where it hurts... Tom can and does "My mowf hoits hee-ah"(translation: My mouth hurts here) as he points very precisely to the red bulging gum. None of the worry about mystery suffering that plagues the early weeks of mothering. There's also none of the switching sides doubt that also plagued my early weeks - the books suggest "when they are done", but what on earth does that mean??? Are they done? What if they fall asleep? What if the breast still doesn't feel "empty"? What if they are in marathon nurse and both feel empty? Oh, no, none of that with the nursing toddler - he'll tell me he wants the 'big one' and switch sides himself when it's 'that na-na is all done'.

A newborn does have the advantage of looking remarkably appealing in the "drunk with milk" coma - we used to sit up and revel in Isabelle lying between us, with a pool of milk around her mouth, as sedated as if we'd shot her up with valium (ok, maybe not quite). A toddler generally doesn't allow for any such waste of his precious milk... and Tom's particularly irritating habit of guarding/prepping the opposite side is one that I haven't yet been able to break. But, there's possibly nothing more heart-melting to a mother than the gentle pat of his little hand as he nurses his pain away - or the sweetness in his wide eyes as he nods a yes when asked "Good milk?".

There are times when nursing a toddler seems nuts - inconvenient, time-consuming and hardly worth the rolling eyes and ever-higher rising eyebrows (yes, I do see them though I'm now a master ignoring them). You'd think that at the end of a day like today, weaning would seem an appealing option.

But that I can still give him this familiar comfort on this ouchy, grumpy, all out of sorts day is a gift to him and to myself. It's a gift that mothers who wean 'when they get teeth', 'when they can ask for it' or 'when they're 3months/6 months/a year' don't ever get the chance to receive. It's a gift that he can tell me know with words that my milk is good, sweet and "wah-umm" (warm) in his belly. It's a gift that he has learned patience to wait and compassion not to hurt even though it feels good to him - and that I have learned patience to give when I could withhold and compassion to give though it does hurt. I am grateful today above other days for my curly-headed, foot stamping, loud talking acrobatic nursling... and I know he is grateful for me.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On guilt and the breastfeeding police

There's a lot of guilt involved in mothering - not least when it comes to how and what we feed our babies. A constant tension among breastfeeding advocates is ensuring that mothers are getting the information they need to make the right decision for their babies, while respecting their authority as parents and not devaluing their experience. It's heavy emotional stuff - and never straightforward.

For some out there, enough has been said about breastfeeding - anything further is meant to guilt and shame mothers into making the consensus choice. I have trouble with this on a number of fronts.

First, the notion that every new parent knows about breastfeeding and the risks of formula is absurd to anyone who spends any time discussing these issues with mothers. Front-line contacts from obstetricians to nurses to family doctors and pharmacists ought to be the foundations for good decisions, but too often they provide information that is out of date, coloured by their own professional bias or simply incorrect. Mothers need accurate information about the importance of breastfeeding and how to maximize chances of success: somewhat by definition, this means being clear about the consequences of not breastfeeding.

Second, while I believe strongly that a woman must determine the use of her own body, the 'personal choice' argument isn't quite so strong to me when it comes to breastfeeding. A mother who has chosen to birth and raise her child takes with that joy a burden of care - a child isn't owned, she is entrusted. Every baby deserves to be breastfed - as parents, we do countless things that are hard, uncomfortable and intrusive to care for our babies and children. Breastfeeding through challenges is no different than enduring the aches, pains and indignities that pregnancy brings - except that the pay-off is immediate.

Third, because breastfeeding is the biological norm, practices that encourage breastfeeding are good for babies and mothers whether they are ultimately successful at breastfeeding or not. Birth practices that empower women to remain in control of their bodies and their babies, engaging experienced empathetic attendants and post-partum care that recognizes the unique mother-baby dyad are the first steps to avoid many of the problems that lead to frustration and failure of breastfeeding relationships. But they are also the first steps to nuturing the mother so that she can in turn nuture her baby and feel confidence in her competence in that new role.

Advocates for breastfeeding whether health care professionals, volunteers or simply interested parents end up taking a lot of flack that's largely undeserved. We don't get any kind of bonus for helping a mother to breastfeed, spending hours encouraging her or researching a particularly thorny issue. Nor, to my knowledge, are there any posses hunting down formula-feeding mothers in public places to shame them or door-to-door solicitors trying to recruit pregnant women. There are many more mothers needing help and support than public health departments, clinics and La Leche League volunteers can help - they don't need to hunt them down.

Why don't we focus our collective energies on supporting mothers so that their pain and guilt can be avoided entirely?