Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding’ Category

As I walked into a restaurant the other day, the lady greeting me asked “Don’t you have a car seat to bring in?”

“No, I prefer to hold him,” I answered, and she smiled.

It’s so funny to me that these detachable car seats have become a part of the developed world’s parenting culture.

Even at our first trip out to the store when the baby was two weeks old, my husband just assumed we’d take in the car seat and put it in the cart– which I hate doing– while I made sure to have my wrap with us. If I’m going to be somewhere for an hour and a half, I want the baby with me, smelling me, feeling close to me– not enveloped in a plasticky, impersonal car seat, and– at least in my mind– more likely to need to be held when I’m at home and may want to put him down for a minute.

I don’t have a huge objection to detachable infant car seats, and our car seat does detach, though I could take it or leave it more than most people. My husband definitely wanted the detachable car seat, but we use it mostly for the advantage of bringing it in the house when it is cold outside and taking him to the car from our house to a warmed car than anything else. I don’t really cart the baby around stores or restaurants in it at all.

I think people tend to think this is convenient, especially if the baby is sleeping, but I’d rather babywear. It’s more convenient to me. The car seats are heavy and cumbersome to me. And then you have to take them out to feed them or change them anyway. I always put the baby in a wrap and keep him next to my chest while we are out. It keeps me in tune with him– I know when he needs to eat before he fully wakes up and gets upset, and I know if he needs to be changed.

Part of it is the paranoia that this baby will be how his older sister Ada was in the car seat. She had so much tummy trouble and “colicky” behavior because of her then undiscovered gluten-intolerance that car drives were hell. Literally. I’d put her in at the very, and I mean *very*, last instant and drive as quickly as was safe because she’d scream for far more car drives than she didn’t. We switched her from the detachable one to a Britax convertible car seat at 6 months old anyway. It may have help but that’s also the time we started figuring out her stomach problems, so who knows.

Either way, I think I’m becoming more entrenched in the baby wearing subculture with each baby. I wore my first in a ring sling, and would nurse her that way because it helped with my over-active milk ducts– nursing upright and while walking. I wore the second in the wrap because it would soothe her to sleep with her tummy pain and my first was only 2 at the time. It was much easier to keep track of them both at a store and to get work done at the house with one strapped to my chest.

This time I’ve been wearing the baby just about anytime I get up to do anything. Clean the kitchen, do some work for my business, vaccuum. He’s been in the wrap a better part of today so far, and is still there now, which is why I decided to go ahead and write a blog post. He’s snoozing away.

I still make a lot of milk– too much again, for the third time around, to have a baby that can effectively comfort nurse. Often, as a baby nurses off to sleep the milk flow tapers down and they drift off well. My breasts will continue to bring more and more milk until the baby is overfull and hurting and sometimes gagging. He’ll either spit it all up, or cry until he falls asleep and the food can digest, or come off to burp and I can put him in the wrap and walk around. This soothes him to sleep without getting such a full, painful tummy. Thank goodness. Usually when he does spit it all up it’s because it’s nighttime and I’m tired and therefore let him continue to nurse b/c I don’t want to get back up again!

Between working at home, trying to get housework done and having two other kids to keep track of, I think he’ll spend a good part of his first year in the wrap. I still put him in a swing or bouncer some, but I’ve just never succesfully had a baby that will sleep that way– not next to someone– though he will sit there for a bit. He’s the most easy-going baby I’ve had. I obviously missed the mommy class on how to have a child sleep without me being close, b/c it does seem that other people accomplish that. It is beyond me.

What baby doesn’t want to be snuggled up on their mother anyway? With my first I always wanted to put her down. She slept well in the car seat or co-sleeper, and mildly tolerated a bouncer or swing, and was mostly in the wrap at stores or if I really wanted to get something done. Now fast forward to the third, and I no longer care about anyone’s assertions or advice that I should put him down, and it doesn’t bother me as much either to have a baby that wants me just about 24-7. He gets to be held all the time just because it’s easier. And he’s still quite good about going to my husband at nighttime when I put our 4-year-old to bed and give her some one-on-one attention.

My oldest truly has the position of oldest. More responsible. She had to share me at age 2– and with a colicky sister, she cried to sleep with her father b/c she wanted me so much. The second one is 4 with an easy going little brother that I hold all day and is happy to go to his father at bedtime. Both the younger ones hugely benefit from the experience we learned from having the first one. It seriously makes me want to go snuggle with her and tell her she’s the most amazing 6-year-old there is.

It seems each child I have gets more of me because I get better at taking care of babies and know already which tools– like the baby wrap or sling– I plan to utilize.

Even the eldest’s attitude towards the baby benefits him, because my 4-year-old mimics her. If she didn’t have such a sweet example to follow, I’m not sure that she would be quite as positive to the new baby. But so far there have been no hard feelings at all. There is a little insecurity and both older girls have needed some time with me, alone, that I’ve tried to give them. Baby wearing does make that easier.

It honestly makes everything easier. On the one hand, sure, it’s easier to clean the kitchen without a baby tied on my chest, but if having him there makes him happier to be put down when my older girls need me, or when I need to do something for me— you know, like, *shower*, then baby wearing makes life better.


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Another safe birth and healthy baby are miracles that not many people take for granted. Maybe that’s why so many of us want to hear each other’s birth stories and so many of us are happy to share them. I’ve had a few people ask for Darius’ birth story and I’ve always written them down for me to look back at anyway.

This year in particular I feel especially grateful. I’ve had 4 friends in the past few years lose children before, during and after birth, in the first year of life. I don’t think anyone can understand that pain unless you’ve lived it– I certainly can’t– but to have a third guy here, born, healthy while I recover quickly– it’s nothing short of the best thing that can happen to a family, really and truly. We can never underestimate what a gift it is.

Darius’ birth was indeed quite different from my first two. Births are so similar in some ways, and yet all the little details make them different.

You can never believe you aren’t going to have to face a birth again (at least I never can!) and then after you’ve done it… after you’ve faced the pain and pushed a 7 pound human being out of your body– you can hardly believe that you did do it.

My oldest was born in a very typical hospital setting, the only thing saving me from many of the interventions I didn’t want being my educating myself, having a doula and the big one— having a complete surprise of a super fast labor and having her 20 minutes after I arrive. It was the exact mad dash rush to the hospital that I assured my husband only happens in the movies, and not to worry.

The second, I knew I wanted another natural birth and I knew I didn’t want it to be at a hospital, so I traveled about an hour and a half to a birth center in Chapel Hill, NC, staffed by midwives and yet five minutes away from UNC-Chapel Hill’s hospital– my impression being that it is a much baby friendlier place than the hospital where I live.

That baby was *also* born 20 minutes after I arrived. Sheesh.

So this time our hope was for me not to be in transition– right in the throes of serious labor pain that will lead to pushing– in a car. Nearly identical to my second birth, I woke up on a Sunday morning having contractions, timed a few, and just knew I was going into labor. Unlike that birth though, my labor all but stopped while I was in the car. That birth it progressed and progressed and that ride I was coping with contractions the entire time.

This third birth my contractions slowed but were expected to pick up once we arrived. When a mother is in an unnatural or unsafe place to give birth, her labor will either speed up or slow down, according to what her body thinks is safest.

If my water hadn’t broken on its own, we probably would have gone home and called it a false start. After 3 hours and about three miles of walking around the birth center, the midwife advised I either go somewhere and rest and see if labor kicks in or augment the labor with black and blue cohosh and belly binding. I want to find more information on belly binding to share with you all, but so far preliminary searching comes up with postpartum belling binding.

It was en entirely different experience for me… the walking around, the attempting to make labor keep going. It wasn’t anything I had ever, ever, ever had to consider with my other births– the births that started like freight trains and kind of left me dazed and pushing as fast as my husband could get me to the right place!

I decided to send my kids home with my mother and “augment” the labor. Of course, if I were at a hospital with a doctor that would be done with Pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which will indeed interfere with a woman’s natural oxytocin after birth and doesn’t allow for breaks for the mother and the rhythm of natural labor. Sarah J. Buckley’s research on how pitocin affects our natural hormones is pretty interesting– I saw her speak on it several years ago at a birth conference.

But belly binding, though I’d only vaguely heard of it, seemed like an acceptable thing, and since my water was broken, I really had no desire to go and rest. At least my desire to go and rest was overshadowed by my desire to have the labor start for real. I kind of just wanted to have him! I can see now why women do choose interventions because once your water is broken its a tad frustrating that labor isn’t really kicking in. Had I had a homebirth, I bet my body would have acted differently, or at least, taking a nap wouldn’t have mattered. Either way, the belly binding seemed natural enough to fit into my comfort level of letting nature take it’s course while in labor. The contractions and water breaking happened spontaneously– when the little boy was ready.

They tied a sheet around my tummy as I lifted it, which pushes the baby downward and increases the pressure on my pelvis and thus the contractions. We decided to go to Whole Foods and pick up some gluten-free meals for me to eat after the birth, since it had become apparent that he would be born at night and not in the morning when we arrived– it was about 4 p.m. at this point, and we’d arrived at the birth center at 11:30 a.m.

First we went upstairs to the Birth Center’s boutique where I bought a nice nursing bra with a gift card that a guy who fell off his motorcycle in front of my house gave me. I’ll be he had no idea what I’d spend it on! Labor was picking up again directly after the belly wrapping. We then started to Whole Foods and by the time we got there I knew– it was going to happen soon.

I may have started to cry a bit and asked my husband why my body seems to think I have to be in a car or at a public store when labor starts to get painful??? Labor picked up for me or continued at Wal-Mart, a restaurant getting Azita food with the second, and now at Whole Foods. He ran in and got the food and I continued to freak out and tell him to get me back to the birth center ASAP. It was only 5 minutes away.

We got back and I told the midwife I was officially in pain. She checked me and I’d moved to 5 cm dilated, which is about what I felt like. She wanted to start the bath so that I could finally make it in time for a water birth, and with my history of fast labors, I’m glad she did– though at the time I– once again, even being the one in the middle of painful contractions– didn’t seem to realize just how close I was.

She put me in the shower, which always helps the pain, while she filled the bath.

I was in the bath for about an hour before he was born. In all I went from 5 cm to birth in about an hour and a half. He was born at 6:20.

It was an entirely different thing this time, being at the birth center, focusing on labor, letting it come while not at my house. The last hour of his birth was incredibly serene, actually, though during contractions my insides and head felt pretty tumultuous.

In between contractions I just soaked in the tub, holding my husband’s hands and almost… sleeping? Zoning out? I’m not sure but it was very, very quiet and the lights were low. During contractions I breathed very heavily, stared at my husband while he tried to keep me from hyper-ventilating, wished that my hands and legs hadn’t gone numb and wondered how many more of these contractions I could take.

About 45 minutes in the tub and the midwife told my husband that my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart when he asked, and yet she told me it could be any contraction now that he descends down and my body starts to naturally push.

I freaked out inside— thinking that my contractions needed to be every 1-2 minutes… and yet, just a few contractions later, down he went and the huge climax that is birth was happening. Lord have mercy, what woman experience with a natural birth. Oy, how it felt when he descended into the birth canal. It’s indescribable. I started flailing around and trying to change positions, I don’t know what I was trying to do. Squat, maybe. But between the midwife and my husband I just did what they said– somehow willing myself that if I’d just calm down and push the pain would stop.

I screamed through a huge push, and through another, and out he came. It was the only birth where no one told me to stop screaming— perhaps this was because I was yelling while pushing, not stagnating. I’ve never screamed the “f” word and pushed out a baby at the same time. First time for everything.

When they handed him to me I was in disbelief– more than the girls, I don’t know why— that he was out. I kept repeating “I don’t believe it.” I guess because this time it was an all day process, and also because I’d again convinced myself that it was going to be several more hours when the midwife said my contractions were 3-4 minutes.

But I finally got my calm, peaceful water birth. I didn’t tear at all this time and am recovering well… a world of difference from my first birth, which included third degree tears and passing out from blood loss several hours after the birth.

The funniest thing this time I was that I wrenched my calf and thigh muscle flailing around when he descended down, and that hurt about as much this week as the birth-recovery part!

I got out of the tub, made it into the bed, and have pretty much been nursing or holding him ever since. We got home that night about 2 a.m.

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I’m going to try to start blogging a bit more again. I started this blog around this time of the year when I was pregnant with Ada, so maybe it’s fitting if I write a bit more again at this time of year when I am pregnant with our third. He will be born sometime around 4-6 weeks before our second, in November instead of December.

I feel like motherhood has been a collection of joining new clubs, so to speak. First you are pregnant or with a young child, and you can kind of automatically have a new sentence or two to speak with other moms you see in a check out line. It took me about a year to realize that socializing with other moms was something I needed more than at random moments (I was in college and knew NO other mothers for a while).

So I joined the pregnancy club. Then the I-want-a-natural-birth club and had a doula. Then the breastfeeding club. The cloth diapering club. The babywearing club. Then with my second, I was even more bowled over to join the food allergy/intolerance club. And here I am again, realizing that I’ve joined a whole new club that I never saw coming. It just feels *different* having a third. Going from a four person family to a five person family just feels like you are graduating up to that next level of familyhood again. We had to get a bigger car– we will have a baby at the same time as a first grader. I have two kids at completely different stages of development… whereas when I had a 2 year old and a baby and a small car it didn’t seem that different going from one to two. And at restaurants the four person table would do just fine.

But now I’ll have three. I guess I’ll also join the I-have-a-boy club. Which I don’t believe, at this point, will be *nearly* as different as people want me to believe, but sure it’s still different. In respect to birth/babyhood, the decision to circumcise or not is probably the most different thing, but people already want to impose so many personality traits, assigned by gender, on the kid even though he isn’t even born yet. But our girls play with tools, love robots and have clothes that are not pink, so I’m not that convinced that it will be “a totally different world” as everyone wants me to believe.

Things have been different for me personally, the third time around, something I never knew to expect. As a third pregnancy, apparently— my body has enlightened me and all my mother friends and midwives have confirmed— you feel every single stretch and loosening and pregnancy symptom (related to getting bigger at least) quite a bit more. Oh, I feel *everything*. I have one strip of ab muscle that has hurt from 2-3 months pregnant… before I was showing at all. I get contractions all the time. I get the cervical pains all the time. The midwives say that the body simply has a harder time each pregnancy getting those ab muscles to stretch and the ligaments to loosen. I also have worse pains after birth as the uterus clamps back down to look forward to. I do remember it was quite a bit worse with Ada, each time she’d nurse I get cramps, and that is supposed to happen more so the third time.

It’s all worth it of course, but like all those other clubs, expecting a third kid introduced me to differences I’d never considered.

Some things this time around have been better. I’ve gained weight easier, been able to control the ridiculous heartburn easier through diet changes (knowledge afforded me by being in the food intolerance club and learning to understand how food affects me better— kids teach us so much!), no longer have low iron (probably from being gluten-free). I wish I could say the morning sickness was different but I was still sick for months, and months, and months. Having a boy didn’t seem to help that.

I’ve been in labor twice and it’s daunting to think of the third time around. But I tell myself it will happen, I can’t stop it, and soon it will be three years later and all this pregnancy/labor pain will be a memory and he’ll be talking and playing.

Some things I had thought I’d do the third time around I didn’t. I thought I’d have a homebirth if I ever had a third. I moved from hospital with the first to birth center with the second, and figured homebirth would be the next way I’d go. Part of me still mourns the thought that I won’t do it that way, however, we had some solid logical reasoning. The birth center I go to and trust is about a hour and a half away, in Chapel Hill, NC. The midwives are backed up by Chapel Hill’s hospital— so much better, more mother/baby friendly and respected than the hospital here in Fayetteville, NC. The thought of going back to the hospital here if there was a true emergency during a planned homebirth (as small of a chance as that is) was just decidedly *not* appealing to me or my husband.

I hope to make it in time to have a water birth this time, as with my second I made it to the birth center and had about 20 minutes before I gave birth.

My hopes for the third birth…. a water birth, another short labor– not so short I don’t make the drive up there, but not agonizingly long either!– and another good recovery, in the first four weeks postpartum. I’ve been blessed thus far. I get weekly chiropractic adjustments, which help with positioning the baby so he isn’t breech and keeping the mother’s labor short, with the other two I did yoga… this time I should be… and I stay as active and on my feet as I can. After the birth I breastfeed, which helps the mother’s uterus tone back down and I’ll do that again as well.

My hopes for the third baby…. oh, I don’t know, maybe he’ll pop out and sleep all night and not be colicky since I’m already gluten-free? Totally unlike the second? Well, at least I know the knowledge I gained with her may help us out!

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This past weekend was La Leche League’s biannual conference. The title this year was “Trails and Trials: Pathways to Parenting” and while there were definitely plenty of seminars on breastfeeding specific issues that help those involved with La Leche League be current on research and help mothers seeking breastfeeding support, there were many, many parenting seminars this go round.
That appealed to me since my kids are 5 and almost 3. Azita has gone through a few new issues with school starting, and Ada’s toddlerhood is not at all the same as Azita’s. Different things make her happy, occupy her time and make her upset than did Azita.
The first morning was a talk to the entire conference by Marian Tompson, one of the original founders of La Leche League back in the ’50s. She has 7 children and many grandchildren (and a few great grandchildren too) and I obviously thought it was cool to be able to listen to her thoughts after having been an advocate for children for so many years.
The title of her talk was “Childhood is a journey, not a race”. She talked about a variety of things– some related to that specific topic and others not. She spoke about being in Japan at a time when most babies in this one clinic did not get any colostrum (meaning they did not breastfeed in the first week) and how a doctor noticed that the children with the highest chance of surviving were the ones that did get the colostrum. If I’m remembering correct, this doctor helped lead Japan to the lowest infant mortality rate at the time (the 70s or 80s? I just can’t remember) by focusing on getting babies that first week of nursing.
It’s amazing, actually, to think she’s been in this arena for so long. You see books and hear people say that there is no actual evidence that breastfeeding is that much better than formula, but a story like that helps you realize that it is indeed a life-saving practice for some kids. I think that when the odds are stacked FOR a baby, by being born into a developed country to wealthy parents (wealthy compared to the world, I mean, not that the parents are millionaires by American standards), then maybe breastfeeding doesn’t seem as necessary.
But to be her, to have been around when kids DID die because they needed the mother’s milk and artificial formulas (inferior to human milk but better than dairy milk or solid foods alone) weren’t as highly developed, really does give a perspective– an appreciation– for how far we’ve come in understanding how to help our children be their healthiest.
She also talked about how rapidly children are changing, though didn’t attempt to tackle all the reasons. How there are now sensory disorders, food allergies abounding (that one I know about!) and suicide rates among teens rapidly rising.
She cited a study in which is showed that some children learn better while standing, as opposed to sitting, and then the conversation turned to how schools must adapt and change to change to how our children’s brains and development are changing. We don’t know why things are different than when she was raising kids, but she seemed to be saying that she is optimistic—that schools and old viewpoints about how to raise/educate children must and will change because they have to.
She hinted that some of her perspective might be that both parents seem to need to work to survive in our economic climate and that it is affecting our children’s early years.
Stress hormones have been studied, and children that release high amount of stress hormones in the first two years of life deal with stress differently throughout their lives. Could this affect the suicide rates and unhappy and unfulfilled adults that seem to be all over the place?
When a child gets stressed from separation from its mother, it appears that it will always have an impact on that child. Of course, Azita stayed with a sitter from 6 weeks of age to 2 years, and I do feel it affected her. But I can listen to this research and these ideas without feeling guilty. I nursed her for a long time, and we let her co-sleep. To me these solutions helped us deal with the realities of modern life. And many moms don’t know, because of doctors and mothers and uninformed friends, that these practices can be safe, healthy and extremely beneficial.
I was aware during that discussion that these concepts, of the research that is becoming widespread about how the way we’ve been raising our children in this country may harm their stress coping mechanisms and emotional attachments to other people they meet throughout their life time might make people feel defensive. Might make people feel defensive out in the mainstream world, that is. In the La Leche League bubble, there is little judgment, and mutual respect for doing things the way that works for your family, balanced by respect for the child as a fellow human with valid needs.
When a parenting aspect, like co-sleeping or toddler nursing respects both the mom and baby’s needs, then it’s probably a good idea, in my head.
She talked more on the economics stuff, saying that in her day when a husband was having a child, his employers typically gave him a raise. Now, we must decide whether or not the mom will keep her job and how to afford it all, or, alternately, how the mom (and sometimes dad) will raise the children on her own on one salary.
“There must be an understanding of what the baby needs,” she said. I interpret what she is saying to mean that our society does not value the child enough anymore to try to help the mother be there for the early years of its life. Mother’s wishes are often ignored in the delivery room, she is not offered good lactation support by hospital nurses, and then she is encouraged to try to make the baby independent from her as soon as possible after birth.
There were many interesting studies discuss and as I go through my notes I may post about them. Don’t have citations, but I’ll bet they could be found.
Lastly, she gave this quote by an economist Hazel Henderson “Economics is not a science, it is politics in disguise.”
How many things do we think we have to buy when we first have a baby? I was told I “had to” have a swing, and a Boppy (nursing) pillow, and a little mesh feeding bag, and a good stroller. Azita hated almost all of those things, and I didn’t find the Boppy pillow that helpful. They each have held a useful place in my raising two kids, but I think her point was that the one thing the baby actually needs to develop best is just the mom, and that’s about it.
We shouldn’t make parenting choices based on our economic conditions or the motives of a corporation. And we have to wade through so much information. But being true to your kid tends to help you wade through the junky parenting books and find the good ideas.

Next post: Azita the perfectionist.

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Each time I think that I might be exaggerating the fact that many doctors might be hindering a woman working at breastfeeding, someone tells me an anecdote that reminds me that many indeed are. It reminds me that those of us who successfully nurse our kids through thick and thin are not being overzealous when we feel that we need to share our knowledge with other mothers.

After the birth of my first child, I was so bursting with the desire to connect with other moms that had worked through and made it to nurse a child for a year, or at all, I probably seemed a little over the top. Fortunately, I found La Leche League and went to the groups and met other moms and got the support I craved. Now I’m a La Leche League leader, which gives me the avenue to help other mothers that want the help. It’s nice when someone who needs support calls you to get that support, and you aren’t just talking about nursing at each and every play date like a mom with a one-track mind.

I know some think that an LLL Leader, or any breastfeeding advocate, is at best unnecessary and at worst, trying to make mothers feel guilty when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Of course, both of those extremes are far from the truth. Women run LLL groups to provide a place for mothers that seek information and support to get it, and we, at our best, remain unbiased and kind to a woman’s decision. We affirm a woman’s choice to do as she pleases; our goal is simply to make sure she had the most information possible before she makes her decision.

The conversation provoking this post was one from a mom pregnant with her second child. She told me that her first child’s pediatrician told her that she must wean when she contracted thrush, a common breastfeeding issue. He told her there was no medication compatible with breastfeeding. This is far, far from the truth as I can think of three remedies off the top of my head that moms use every day. She told me her tricked her.

I responded, as I should as an LLL Leader, in an unbiased way. I told her that unfortunately many doctors are not trained in breastfeeding and simply have a lack of knowledge. Then she revealed to me why she felt “tricked”. She went to the next appointment and told him she was unhappy with his advice and she had wanted to continue nursing, and had found after her milk dried up (and she got mastitis from the abrupt weaning) that she could not get him back to the breast. Her goal was to nurse for one year, and she got a mere month or so.

She undoubtedly felt betrayed and unsupported by the person she was paying money to trust with the health of her baby.

He told her “I just generally don’t like breastfeeding, so I always just advise woman against it.”

Yes, that is the moment that validates all the advocacy and informational events I will ever do. We are here to help women like this, essentially victims of a bad, bad doctor. A doctor whose personal biases caused a woman recovering from childbirth an infection and lost her baby 10 or 11 more months of antibodies and a unique way to bond with its mother.
Breastfeeding can be a touchy subject because anything that makes someone not fulfill a goal, especially when it comes to mothering, can make someone feel angry or guilty. Even if the information is shared in an unbiased way. Anger comes from guilt, and guilt is a terrible emotion when it comes to doing the best for a child. A woman that makes an informed decision, and stops breastfeeding but feels confident about her decision, won’t have that anger and guilt towards breastfeeding advocates.
Luckily, in this case, the mother’s anger and upset is pointed towards the appropriate place—towards a doctor who gives bad advice on purpose. How many kid and moms has he hurt, I wonder. This is why LLL Leaders do what we do. It’s why we run groups, and give out flyers to pregnant moms we meet, and run informational fairs.

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Payman has spent the last 2 weeks or so getting up before the sun rises to eat his breakfast, and waiting until the sun sets to eat or drink anything. Fasting, in one way or another, is a part of most world religions, and the Baha’i Faith is no different.

Baha’is fast from dawn to dusk in the 19 days before the first day of Spring, the New Year on the Baha’i calendar.

There are different reasons people fast, but Payman has always clued into one meaning for him: understanding hunger.

I vegan fasting when I was 14 but haven’t in 5 years because I am exempt when pregnant or nursing, for pretty obvious reasons. So sometimes I participate in my own way, but mostly I get to live vicariously through him on this one.

According to an article in today’s newspaper, North Carolina tied with Louisiana for first place as the state with the largest amount of children under 5 who go hungry. Apparently, 25 percent of our children here feel hungry, or as the paper put it, 1 in 4.

I suppose this could be where I enter into an argument for toddler nursing (free and healthy and filling!) but that isn’t really my point here.

That number really shocked me. A child in Florida who was interviewed described hunger as “a black hole” and the world’s hungry people exceeded 1 billion last year.

Payman remarks to me, each year during the Fast, that all he has to do is get up early and skip lunch, and how hard just that is, and how people can’t believe the strictness of our Fasting (which is 11 days less strict than the Muslim Fast, but perhaps a bit stricter than giving up something for Lent). Not that I mean anything by comparison, because a big part of Fasting is what the sacrifice means to us personally and spiritually, but moving on.

We have such a luxury that we never have to really truly know what it feels like to be hungry and unable to remedy it. And I tend to think of it has a war-torn, third-world-country type of thing, but it obviously isn’t.

To think this week I was fretting about not returning to work for a another couple years with Ada and how it would be nice if I was working to be able to afford already grown peach and cherry trees to plant in the yard to bear fruit, since organic ones are so expensive at the super market.

One big lesson about our Fasting then, is putting your life in perspective. Beautiful perspective. It’s amazing how 2 years ago I said “But *what* will I eat if I can’t eat dairy and gluten?” and so many others voice that same thought to me when they have to give them up or just talking about Ada.

We have everything to eat right in front of us and down the street.

And we get stressed about the cost of food and how incredibly hard it is to maintain our budget these days.

So thank goodness for perspective. We are not hungry. We don’t even know what it means to be truly hungry.

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There is a lot of confusion out there about how to eliminate foods for yourself or your nursling, and what a person can or can’t react to.  I certainly didn’t kow anything about it before two years ago.  I thought that if you reacted to something it must be that it wasn’t healthy.  Now, obviously, I know that isn’t true.

I think that is why some people get a tad weird if you start talking about food intolerances.  If it isn’t a peanut, well-known for being serious in causing reactions, people think you are trying to tell them what *they* can eat.  I told someone at the Farmer’s Market that we’d eliminated eggs for a while to see if they affected Ada, and they started a conversation with me about how healthy they are.  Which I was never disputing.

Anyway, what’s bugging me today is that impractical advice given to people, especially moms with upset little babies, trying to figure out if its a food.  I see some myths repeated over and over, perhaps for the sake of making things not seem too hard for a person to think about.   It’s true… when I pondered going gluten free for Ada, I was more than a little daunted.   But what would help me, is support in that it IS doable. 

Myth 1:  Cutting back will help. 

Many moms talking to me about stopping dairy say “well I don’t eat a lot of dairy” or that they can just cut back and see if it makes a difference, before really committing.  Perhaps at times you can cut back on something a see a change, but it does back to the scientific method here, people.  You’ll never truly know if you don’t commit and cut it all out.  Then you will have wasted your time “cutting back” and probably end up still having symptoms in either you or your baby.  This is true, especially, for skin reactions.  They don’t clear up from ‘cutting back’.

I also thought I didn’t eat a lot of dairy.  But here’s my question to you…. if you insist you don’t eat alot so that isn’t what is causing your psoriasis, or acne, or fatigue,or joint pain, or your baby’s colic and rashes…. then why is it hard to give up?  If you don’t eat “a lot”.  I’m not being harsh here, I know how hard it is!  Just trying to be practical.  I feel the food eliminati0n world is full of impracticality.  If you can’t bear the thought of giving it up, you are addicted. 

I know someone who tells me “I couldn’t live without it.”  She feels it’s easier to give up gluten than dairy.  She just has to have a littl e dairy each day to feel normal.  Hm.  so if we replaced dairy with “cocaine” would we all think it’s okay?

Myth 2: You  have to do an extreme elimination diet to figure things out.

Extreme elimination diets are rarely necessary.  Most people can figure out what is causing their headaches, skin problems or fatigue through a simpler elimination and addition diet.  There is one example of an extreme elimination diet for a colicky baby on Dr. Sear’s website, and while I love Dr. Sears, this has led women to believe that this is how you go about it.  Extreme elimination diets are hard and likely to make you so frustrated you give up. 

It’s much smarter to eliminate the big offenders, and then any suspects or known allergies in the family after that.  Don’t wait a set time, like three weeks, or “until dairy has cleared from the system”.  That’s another myth.  The food is gone after a few days, but waiting for the body to heal, that’s another story.  You eliminate your list until symptoms go away.  After a week, if nothing has changed at all, eliminate more suspects, but DON’T add the first eliminations back in or you’ll never know if you/your child react to more than one thing.

For example, with Ada, I eliminated dairy when she was 3 months old.  It got a little better so I stuck with it.  After three weeks, she was clearly still reacting to something, so I did away with soy and eggs.  Three more weeks and symptoms were getting worse, so I added gluten the list.  Four days later she had her first healthy bowel movement.  Nothing extreme was needed at that point.  Sometimes you never even trial something back in because the change was so dramatic.  Eggs were trialed back in with success, and dairy and soy are coming at some point.

Myth 3: Peanuts and shellfish are the first thing to be eliminated.

Nuts and shell fish get the attention because they often cause anaphylaxsis.  But they account for a smaller percentage of foods that really cause all these common problems.  Dairy and gluten are by far the two most common intolerances, regardless of if a person has a dairy allergy, that tests positive with IgE, or true celiac disease.

After that soy, eggs and corn are up there.  Potatos and nightshades and the avocado/banana family after that.  Any person can react to anything.  It’s highly individualized, and yet, nearly everyone I know who has a kid who reacts to stuff, has had to eliminate gluten and dairy.

Myth 4:  I don’t have any food intolerances.

This one is interesting to me, because it’s what I would have said two years ago.  But the fact is, you don’t know if you’ve never eliminated a food to see if you feel differently when you don’t eat it. I was so much more exhausted at the end of the day, had so many more headaches, a really really sensitive gag reflex, and often didn’t feel well after eating, but I couldn’t ever pinpoint how I felt. Not nauseated, not hungry, not full. I also had low iron, despite eating lots of raw spinach, red meat and taking supplements. Many people discover harder to explain differences when they don’t eat certain things. They can shake depression and anxiety easier (or completely rid of anxiety acts), are less emotional or irritable, no longer have PMS, etc.

I had no food intolerances either. Now that I am gluten, dairy and egg free, I have energy, headaches or few and far between, I rarely get back aches any more, I can brush my teeth without gagging, and I have a healthy relationship with eating. I don’t feel weird after I eat, I tend to feel good.

Myth 5: Hypoallergenic formula can’t cause reactions.

It’s really a shame that so many mothers are fed this line. It was suggested to me that I use a HA formula with Ada, and they all contain corn, soy and/or dairy, all things we were eliminating. Many women report back that they regret starting the formula, that their child was never truly healthy on it, and they wish they’d just kept nursing while eliminating foods.

The bottom line is doctors tell women their babies won’t react to HA formula because this is what the pharmaceutical reps have told them. Their goal is to make money, not to safeguard your child’s health. Even if that is their goal, they are misinformed and misguiding about the rewards, difficulties, and health benefits of just eliminating foods and sticking to breastmilk.

Myth 6: Dairy myths.

There are alot of myths about dairy, in particular. That you can eat goat milk but not cow. That you are just lactose intolerant. That butter isn’t really dairy. That lactose doesn’t have the protien in it so it’s okay.

Just like with any other elimination, you eliminate it all, then trial one by one. A small, repeat *small*, percentage of people can eat goat or sheep dairy if they react to cow’s milk protien, but that is the exception and not the norm, as many people think. Lactose intolerance is the normal state of the human stomach after age 5 or so, when a human would have stopped nursing, long long ago. So those of us that still make lactase are the exception, not the rule, again , when compared to most humans. Sometimes there is lactose in a pill and a doctor will say it’s okay because the protein isn’t there. And it may be a trace enough amount that you or your baby don’t react, but no on can promise that. You trial it separately, just like everything else.

Myth 7: You should avoid “allergenic foods” while pregnant, nursing, or introducing solids or avoid all nuts or all seeds.

This one is undetermined, scientifically. But the take on it that I have heard and tend to agree with, is, if you have eliminated other foods, and have *no* reason to suspect something like nuts or shellfish, then there is no reason to eliminate it and restrict your diet further. Ada had some nuts before she was two, and we trialed eggs with her before then too. Why wait because some people react to it? She already doesn’t eat dairy and gluten. So we gave her other vegetarian proteins and she was fine.

Another thing is people are often told to avoid all nuts and seeds. Botanically, food family wise, one seed isn’t any more likely to cause a reaction that another. So just because you react to peanuts, a legume, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat sunflower seeds. Tree nuts have been lumped together but are often botanically different as well. The big complication here is cross contamination, and so some people should avoid all nuts if they haven’t sourced them carefully themself, meaning ordered then in the shell and washed, for example.

There are food cross reactions, but they might surprise you. Bananas, avocados, papaya and latex are more closely related (reaction wise) then walnuts and almonds.

For more on this, you can read here.

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