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Archive for the ‘MotherBaby Attachment/Crying it out’ 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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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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Another idea swimming around out there is that children act spoiled or act up because they are given the focus, while the two parents should come first as a couple, and the baby second.

I agree that the parents need to give their relationship status.  It needs to be nurtured and watched out for.  If me and Payman aren’t getting along, it affects all of us, and maybe the kids the most.

I don’t see it as a competition though.  I invest myself differently into the kids then I do my relationship to Payman.  And most importantly, he understands that the way I invest myself to them, whether it’s time spent getting them to sleep, nursing, babywearing or et cetera, pays off for our family in the long run.

Payman and I hope to be married for the next 50 years, right?  We understand that for three or four of those years I will be focusing on the children and not us.  If it is so that they will be secure and confidant and trust that we are there for them, and thus hopefully trust that we are there for them as they navigate the difficulties of adolescense and growing up, it is a sacrifice we gladly make. 

I should add that this attitude didn’t develop over night.  When Azita was born, I was extremely overwhelmed by everything.  The sheer volume of her need for me.  The not watching a favorite TV show with Payman. The nursing.  The sleeping.  The balancing working outside the home with the housework with time for myself.  It wasn’t easy for me.  But I figured out how to budget my time and get what I needed for myself while still being able to parent in a way I feel my kids deserve.  It just took adaptability.

And all that being said, our attachment-parenting style has not really interfered with our ability to find time to be together.  Sure, there are tough weeks when I say “Geez, honey, it feels like I didn’t see you this week” and I pass out from exhaustion putting the kids to sleep each night.  But I can’t let my kids be afraid.  Even at four years of age, Azita doesn’t like to fall asleep on her own.

Payman remembers being horribly afraid of the dark and sneaking into his brother’s room because he wasn’t allowed to disturb his parents.  We don’t want that for them.  I was always welcome in my parent’s bed.  Guess which one of us has trouble sleeping at night, and is always jumping awake at little noises?

Yes, him.  And yes, that is one anecdote and doesn’t mean all cases will be like that.  But for us, it’s enough.  That and following our hearts. 

And I always remember when I was figuring this stuff out with Azita, my dad telling me that one of my sisters slept fine on her own and I preferred to be in their room.

If you poke around message boards and blogs, you will find many parents, even those who did sleep training methods and had the first kid sleep on their own, in their own room, say that it just didn’t work for the second child.  Children are individuals, and what we do doesn’t change their ingrained personality traits, I don’t believe.  It shapes their personality, for better or for worse.  Maybe one kid forced to sleep on their own copes fine, while another becomes cripplingly afraid.  Again, I guess I just believe in listening to that particular child and their needs.

Many people see kids as selfish and attention seeking and that that is a motive for their behavior.  I agree, actually.  But I don’t agree on what that implies.

Our job as parents is to help them go from babies, intimately connected with their mother, to self-sufficient, but hopefully not horrible self-centered, people.  It takes a long time.  It takes at least 15 to 20 years, right?  It seems like some of these parenting philosophies want kids to be grown up and self-sufficient in a matter of weeks. 

I think forcing too much independance on your kid has the opposite affect.  I think that it makes them more needy and less secure in the end.  Azita and Ada will learn to cope with being apart from me when they are ready.  They will make that choice, it won’t be forced on them.  I think forcing it on them, especially Azita, would backfire on me.  The more I have ever tried to make Azita more independant of me than she was ready for, the clingier she got.

When I let her sleep with me, snuggle with me, have my undivided attention before needing to do something on my own, her little cup is full and she is much more likely go off on her own.

Azita is the kind of kid that sending her to her room is the worst thing you can do to her.  She hates being alone.  But Ada will happily play by herself.  So how can one type of discipline work equally well for both of them?  It can’t.  I don’t believe so.

Conflict between parents and children comes when the kids want to do something different than the parents, either because they don’t understand why its dangerous or because they don’t understand the adult world and its time constraints.  I  believe a kid acting out needs to be listened to and needs to be heard.  The more I listen to Azita, and try to find out what she really wants, the less she throws tantrums or argues with Ada.  Some times her wish can’t be fulfilled, but often, if I’m flexible or provide what she wants in an acceptable way, it can.

We just don’t view our family as a household with individuals that are fighting for attention.  At times, it might feel like that because the needs of kids are demanding.  But we see it as me and Payman working together to help the kids learn to be independant at their individual paces.  We’ll go on a second honeymoon one day.

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I’ve got several friends these days who are soon to be mothers.  I might have had the kids a little younger than most of my friends I guess!

Before Azita was born, four and a half years ago, I hadn’t looked into any philosophies or ideas of thought on how babies sleep or the baby’s attachment to the mother or anything.  I just kind of winged it.

You could say I follow an attachment parenting philosophy, certainly more than the other methods out there.  I have huge issues with things like Babywise, the Pearls, the Ferber method.  Although I should note that I’ve read that even Dr. Ferber himself has said parents took his ideas way too far and not the way he intended it.

I would like to think though, that if I followed any parenting philosophy, it would be the follow-your-insinct or the go-with-your-heart model of parenting.

I don’t do things to my children that I wouldn’t want done to me and I don’t do things that feel wrong, inside.  Part of the problem I have with letting a kid cry it out is that the mothers often say it was very difficult to do.  One mom I know said her husband had to physically hold her back from going to her crying 3-month-old baby.  Yes, the 3-month-old who doesn’t have the capacity to understand what is happening to him and why– just that he knows the smell and warmth of the one person who makes him feel complete, is not there for him.

If something feels so wrong to a mother she needs to be held back, then I don’t think its the right choice for her or her baby.

On some occassions, I think there are babies that work just fine being put down drowsy in their beds and sleep securely and confidently that way.  I had a friend who did not let her kid cry and she slept for 12 hours solidly at night by 6 months.  That is great for her. 

What I take issue with is telling mothers, to the detriment of their baby’s health and attachment, that this is a goal that should and can be reached. 

Babies are born with different personalities.  They are individuals.  Even as adults, we fall asleep differently– some watch TV, some read, some do yoga, some need quiet, some need white noise.  Why do we impose things upon our babies– rigidity– that we do not impose upon ourselves?

I’ve heard the idea that people who bring their babies into bed with them do it to fulfill their own needs.  I’ve also heard that idea expressed about toddler nursing.  I’ve heard it expressed about holding a baby while they sleep.  Not to offend anyone, but I find it kind of absurd.  Ada needed to be held to sleep.  Azita did not.  Azita slept in a co-sleeper by the bed until 6 or 7 months when she began teething, but could be easily moved out of the bed until 4 or 5 am after falling asleep. 

I wanted nothing more than to put Ada down while she napped, but that wasn’t what she needed.  People, of course, told me that if I don’t put her down she’ll never be able to sleep on her own.  And of course, by “never” they mean the first year or so, because we all know she isn’t going to be 16 and want to sleep with her mother.  Around 6 months old, Ada would begin to kick and squirm after rocking to sleep and want to be laid down– of her own volition.  She changed when she was ready. 

If her tummy hurts or she is sick, she might need to be held to rest well and my arms are always open.

I think a lot of new moms that will be continuing to work are attracting to the sleeping training ideas.  They are, naturally, worried about getting enough sleep and functioning at work.  I just wish that more of them realized working, breastfeeding, a more attached parenting style– none of these things mean you won’t get enough sleep.  You just need the information that will help you in your unique situation, with your schedule and your baby. 

Azita was my working mom baby.  She slept in her swing while my sister watched her and I was at work, and napped well on her own.  She nursed to sleep.  Babies will adapt— those who say her nursing to sleep would made it difficult for me to leave her with a babysitter weren’t correct for our situation either.  She knew I was there to give her what she needed when I was around.  And when she was with my sister, she coped.  But I refused to make my babies cope to being without what they needed from me I was in the house.  I found as a working mom I got much more sleep nursing Azita at night and letting her sense my closeness as she slept.

There are a lot of different degrees of sleep training and co-sleeping (which is defined as the infant in the room, not necessarily the same bed as the mother).  There are ways to do both that are unsafe for the baby.  I was very careful about the way the children slept with us, especially when they were young. 

This article has some of the benefits and risks of co-sleeping:

http://www.llli.org/NB/NBNovDec07p244.html

An article on crying-it-out:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/949653/the_dangers_of_letting_your_baby_cry.html?cat=25

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I found this article on treating depression with probiotics quite interesting:

http://www.nleducation.co.uk/resources/reviews/a-novel-approach-to-treating-depression-how-probiotics-can-shift-mood-by-modulating-cytokines/ 

The parts I found interesting had less to do with the depression part and more to do with the parts about how your gut health is programmed by the bacteria you encounter at birth and in the first years of life.  It makes me want to try harder to make sure the kids tummy’s are full of the good stuff now.  I had heard that concept– that the first few years of life help determine a person’s gut health and thus how strong their immune system is– but I wasn’t sure if it was true or if it was just an idea that someone had that supported their particular view on health.

I found this paragraph interesting:

How important to our immune health are friendly gut bacteria? Immeasurably so. When rat pups were separated from their mother—causing extreme stress—and then reintroduced to their moms days later, their immune system was forever altered. They were permanently more sensitized to stress displaying high levels of anxiety. However, when rat pups were separated and provided probiotics, and then returned to their mothers, their immune system was equal to that of their never-separated peers and were no more anxious than their non-separated siblings. This shows how profoundly important our gut biota is—to both immunity and mood. Our microbiota not only live with us, they carry an enormous skill set that helps us navigate life, from release of key nutrients to modulation of our immune system.

There are alot of different conclusions to draw there I’m sure– but anyone that reads regularly will know mine have a certain slant.

 It doesn’t surprise me that the rat pups immune function was compromised when they were separated from their mothers.  It did surprise me that the probiotics helped their immune system stay strong while they were still separated.  I imagine however, that if the rat pups were never returned to their mothers that even probiotics would not bring them back to their original health and immune function.

I like these little findings because I remember reading one pregnancy book that actually said a newborn can’t distinguish its mother from any other caretaker.  This was a very mainstream book that a friend bought me from Barnes and Nobles, written by a female medical doctor.   Even before Azita was born I knew that couldn’t be true.

And now we are finding out that a child’s immune system is impaired simply from separation!  I attended the Gentle Birth World Congress in Portland, Oregon when Azita was a little over a year old.  The researchers and doctors from around their world that brought their findings about what it does to a newborn when s/he is separated from the mother were overwhelming. 

One doctor even related a story about how a child was not breathing at birth and he instinctually told the nurse not to cut the umbilical cord.  Oxygen support was not available for 8 minutes.  Eight minutes!  The child suffered no brain damage by the time they got its lungs to start working.  That is a powerful connection to the mother that western science clearly takes for granted by always cutting the cord so soon.  Tragic, actually, when it can save lives.  And now we have companies encouraging cord blood banking and cutting that tie even sooner. 

I often think this connection between mother and baby is downplayed in an effort to try to make mothers feel less guilty if a complicated vaginal birth or c-section inspires the ‘hospital policies’ to take the baby to the nursery while the mother recovers.  I remember with Azita, I needed some recovery time and fainted due to blood loss and I did not get to really see her or hold her (save for about 30 seconds right after the birth) until she was about 4 hours old.  Sure, 4 hours is not alot of time, but to me and her, it was.  And then breastfeeding got off to a terrible start, and that doesn’t help motherbaby separation or Azita’s immune system.

I felt horrible about feeling I couldn’t breastfeed her at first, and that feeling propelled me to get the information I needed from a La Leche League Leader and figure it out, despite some pain and complications, which were soon enough over.  That feeling was important.  I shouldn’t be told that my baby can tell the difference between me and some other woman giving her a bottle!  I should be reassured that when we are reunited, probiotics (which are in breastmilk, of course) will bring her immune system back up to its former strength.

This one little quote– yes, perhaps I extrapolate too much– also makes me think about how well-meaning adults often downplay your child’s separation anxiety.  Again– I think to make it easier on the mother.  If separation stresses a child out to the point of stressing the immune system at birth, then I feel it would affect them at 9 months, 18 months, maybe 3 years old too.

I was often encouraged to leave Azita, when I was still in college, distracted so that I could get out of the house tear-free by a fellow college student that also had kids.  I refused to do that.  I let her know I was leaving and that I’d be back.  I didn’t want her fearing I’d sneak out at any moment when I simply walked into the kitchen. 

I also read another study, which I don’t have a cite for anymore, that examined about 5000 children as teens on an army base in Germany and polled the parents on their methods when the teens were infants.  The researchers were specifically looking at crying-it-out as a sleep method, and found that those children had higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as lower SAT scores.

It seems clear to me that hormones and gut bacteria will affect a human throughout their life and we shouldn’t understimate the importance of that in the early years.  The rest of the article was very interesting as well, and worth reading.  Those issues are always the ones that will jump out at me.

Ada never left me.  She was born in a birth center, nursed minutes after birth, and I don’t think I left her with Payman even until she was 9 months older or something.  With Azita, this would have overwhelmed me.  With Ada, I feel very grateful for that.  She is the one with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder.  It’s like God gave them to me in the order they needed, when I was able to be there for them differently.  Azita is still the clingy one, too, interestingly enough.

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A friend of mine asked me, about 6 months ago, for a list of the top ten things I can’t live without with a new baby.  Fortunately I think she’s still actually pregnant.  Good thing it takes 9 months!

My answers will not include bouncers, swings, bottles, strollers and all the junk you are told you *have* to have to have a baby.  True– I used a swing and bouncer some (mostly for showers and dinner prep), and Azita switched between bottle and breast as I was still in college and pretty much a working/pumping mom.  But Ada never used a bottle, maybe once.

Azita hated all bouncers and swings, and Ada tolerated them for 15 minutes at a time, just enough for a shower or quick meal prep.  But once her tummy aches and food intolerances kicked in, unforetunately the swing didn’t soothe her at all.  I’ve heard of people whose kids adore swings or bouncers and that its a lifesaver.  For us, they took up space and money.

So, my top ten list, trying to be devoid of too much commercialism and down to the real, true needs:

Hmm, should I count down?  I guess so.

1o.  Baby socks of only one color.  I swear those girls never wore the same pair twice.  I was completely unable to keep up with them.  With Ada I wised up and got only the exact same ones, but about ten pairs. 

9. Cloth diapers and an open mind to look into Elimination Communication— watching your newborn for little wiggly legs and taking her to the sink, instead of wrapping her up in plastic.  Either one will save your wallet and your curbside traffic pick up.

8. A co-sleeper or bedrail to aid in safe co-sleeping (defined as baby in the room, not necessarily in the bed) and the book, the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley or the Sleep Book by Dr. Sears.  Any books by Dr. Sears, actually.

7. Ideas for food that is healthy yet easy to prepare one handed.  An example:  Chicken thighs and a potato in the oven.  Bake for an hour.  Have a salad mix ready.  You can use tongs for the chicken and never need to wash your hands and there is little clean up or effort on your part.  Cut veggies in the fridge are good snacks, especially with hummus or another healthy dip.  Keep water handy.  Frozen homemade meals, prepared ahead of time, are wonderful if you can swing it.

6.  The right mindset.  You shouldn’t judge yourself and should remember that a messy house is okay for the time being.  It’s okay take care of the important things, like kitchens and bathrooms, and let the other things slide.  It’s okay, nay essential, that you put your needs and your baby’s needs ahead of material things. 

5. A support system.  In our culture, women are often far away from family, and even when family is close, ideas about nursing and baby care and sleeping through the night and all types of things can be, unfortunately, combative and sometimes not helpful.  Hopefully, there is another person there to do some laundry and cook some meals.  Support found through a La Leche League group, a partner who understands the woman’s job for the first three months is to heal herself and nurse her baby or a friend (who is free to help out around the house) can be wonderful.

4. A copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

3.  A baby wrap or sling.  Ada was very colicky, though there were underlying reasons for that, as many of you know, and for a while, she would only nap while being worn.  And an over-exhausted fussy baby is worse than a fussy one.  Also, tt always felt so much safer having her snuggled to my chest than in a carseat or grocery cart.  Not to mention wonderful for her developmet and body heat.

Wraps are expensive, and to decommercialize this even more— here’s the secret, they are ridiculously easy to make, and you can make a wrap even without a sewing machine.  Or there are several very nice ones available now on websites.  I’ve heard very negative things about the business practices of Ergo, a popular choice, but there are many others.  I was definitely a wrap and ring sling girl.  But for the new  mom, wraps have a longer learning curve.  Pouches are easiest, and then things like the Beco, Ergo or ring sling.  I prefer two shouldered and look up the spinal pressure thing of models like the Baby Bjorn.  The others are better options.

3.  A basket with a water bottle, book, the TV clicker and some easy to eat snacks.  It can be carried around with one arm as new momma shuffles from the couch to the bed, and if baby falls asleep on her and she is too exhausted to get up, she’s got what her body and mind needs with her.

2. A doula.  I guess that would be for before baby arrives, but its still on my list.  She was invaluable to me and my husband both.

1.  The number of an LLL Leader and information on local groups.  When Azita was born, I was in tears and pain and felt like I was doing something wrong.  A La Leche League Leader came to my hospital room before Azita was 24 hours old and gave me hope that there was a light at the end of the tunnel, now that I was armed with some information about what was normal for a new breastfeeding pair.  The nurses were of no help at all and made me feel worse.  And yes, the pressure to breastfeed was put there by myself, and no one else, but it was still fiercely important to me, for reasons I couldn’t explain.

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