Showing posts with label breastfeeding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label breastfeeding. Show all posts

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Breastfeeding, Modesty, and the Church

There is arguably nowhere that should be more accepting and encouraging of breastfeeding than the Church. Our Creator God designed a beautifully functional system where mothers can nourish their growing babies directly from their breasts, with a number of additional benefits to both mother and baby. To use our breasts in this primary God-ordained purpose is to affirm His design as good and worthy.

Breastfeeding is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. The infant, likewise, develops a strong emotional security as he learns to trust that his needs will be quickly and appropriately responded to. The more sensitive a mother becomes to her child's cues, the better the child becomes at giving those cues. This is the beginning of communication and connection between mother and child. As connection grows, the mother/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive, resulting in a foundational mutual trust and sensitivity upon which the relationship will continue to build.

Yet too often the misguided and misconstrued notion of modesty that permeates much of the church hides breastfeeding women away in back rooms, or at the very least under a blanket, suggesting that breastfeeding is somehow dirty, shameful, or inappropriate for public. Has so much of the church so easily succumbed to our culture's misconstruction that breasts are primarily sexual?

Many women, including myself, are fortunate to belong to a church that accepts and even affirms the natural role breasts play in nourishing our children. Too many others, however, experience the opposite, asked to remove themselves to a private place because the act of breastfeeding might "cause a man to stumble" or because "children shouldn't see that."

This is what happens when the focus of modesty becomes merely covering up our bodies. It reduces men to slavering dogs and women to tantalizing temptresses, affirming our culture's message that breasts are primarily sexual.

Such messages are demeaning, insulting, and damaging.

They are demeaning to women who are made to feel ashamed of their bodies. Hidden away in back rooms or asked to cover up, many find themselves discouraged, berated, shamed, and even compared to strippers. Some women are made to feel so uncomfortable that the breastfeeding relationship itself becomes threatened. Other women lose out as well without the example of mothers nursing in their presence, particularly because breastfeeding is a right-brained activity that is best learned by imitation rather than instruction. Breastfeeding will never be considered normative if it is never seen. Have we become so afraid of our God-designed bodies that we fear "causing a man to stumble" by feeding our babies?

They are insulting to men who are treated as uncontrollable beasts at the mercy of their sexual impulses. When breastfeeding is suggested to be immodest, the implication is that a man is unable to control his thoughts at the mere glimpse of a piece of a woman's skin as her child latches on. Taught to fear both their desires and women's bodies, the body paradoxically becomes the focus. Rather than encouraging responsibility, compassion, and self-control, the source of discomfort (a woman breastfeeding her child) is removed, and so the cycle continues.

They are damaging to our sons and daughters of all ages who lose the opportunity to see breastfeeding as a natural, God-designed method of feeding babies. We deny children and young adults the chance to witness breasts being used for their primary purpose, leaving them at the mercy of secular culture where they soon learn to view breasts as sexual objects. And thus the cycle is perpetuated: breasts are shameful and breastfeeding is to be hidden away.

They are damaging to the church body who loses the richness of the breastfeeding imagery used throughout Scripture. (See, for example, Genesis 49:25, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 60:16, Isaiah 66:10-11, and Psalm 22:9.) While Song of Solomon acknowledges the breasts' beauty and sexual nature (as well as that of the lips, face, hair, neck, arms, legs, and more), it is the picture of breasts as a source of loving nourishment and sustenance that takes center stage throughout Scripture. The Hebrew El Shaddai can be literally translated as "God of many breasts". When breastfeeding is treated as a necessary evil, tucked away for fear of the breasts' secondary sexual nature, the totality of the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child is not witnessed: the baby's full-bodied eagerness as he reaches for the breast, the bonding and responsiveness between the pair as they gaze at each other, the baby's utter satisfaction afterwards. That imagery is part of the whole and to miss it is to miss the full picture of the relationship between God and His children.

But what about modesty?

Scripture affirms modesty in the sense of godly character rather than the superficial beauty of outward adornment and expensive attire (1 Timothy 2: 8-10). Such modesty seeks to live a life that gives glory to God rather than to Self (much as the sacrificial and worshipful aspects of breastfeeding do).

When we reduce modesty to merely a way of dress, however, we lose the depth of the true meaning of modesty. Modesty is primarily an internal attitude, an inner sense of humbleness, comportment, character, and self-control that goes far deeper than the superficial level too many in the church hold to. The focus on clothing - sleeve length, skirt length, neckline, and so on - rather than the heart is a shameful distortion and reduction of that deeper, internal modesty.

Tracy beautifully describes her devastating experience with this nuance in her piece Perverting Modesty:
"With this attempt to dress me by this new definition of modestly, my genuine modesty of person was replaced with a fixation on a superficial modesty of shoulders and knees being covered...This modesty fetish has perverted the idea of true humbleness into a niche clothing market."
Of course, there is room for thoughtful respect of others. However, there is a difference between being discrete and hiding the act of breastfeeding entirely. There is no need to expose oneself more than necessary, but neither should a woman feel compelled to drape a blanket over her baby or move to another room. These things are welcome options, certainly, for those who feel most comfortable nursing in that manner, but the expectation of such a thing should have no place in our society. The distortion of what modesty means is reflected in every suggestion that feeding a hungry baby is immodest or improper.

The church is not the only place that routinely shames women for breastfeeding in public. Stores, restaurants, and other public areas are often likewise squeamish, ordering women to leave despite laws throughout Canada and most of the United States that protect a woman's right to breastfeed in any public area. Yet it is the church, mindful of the purity, goodness, and appropriateness of God's creations, that should be leading culture in this regard, not following along behind it.

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The 20th annual World Breastfeeding Week takes place from August 1-7, 2012. This year's focus is "understanding the past, planning for the future."

Join the Natural Parents Network in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with their annual WBW blog hop!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
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Twice now, it's happened: my babies have weaned.

While my approach has been similar with each of them - partial weaning initiated by me, ultimate weaning left up to them - their two stories are entirely unique, just as the boys themselves are. It's a wonderful thing to watch them grown in their own unique ways, but it's a strange feeling, too, to witness them leaving behind a stage in their lives.

These are their stories of weaning.

Weaning My Oldest: Sweet and Sentimental

At one year, my first son's diet was mainly breastmilk. We had introduced solids at six months, but those first several months of solid food were more for play and experimentation than anything else. Believing in a baby-led-solids approach, he was offered food that he could self-feed. Just as feeding on cue had, this allowed him to follow his natural appetite in choosing when and how much to eat. It wasn't until he was about 15 months old that he began to eat significant amounts of solid food.

When he was 18 months old and no longer relying on breastmilk as his main source of nutrition, I began to cut back on the number of his nursing sessions. Still infertile at this point, I was beginning to resent breastfeeding and knew that it was time to make that change before our nursing relationship was adversely affected. I gradually cut back on our daytime nursing sessions until he was nursing only three times a day - morning, before his afternoon nap, and at bedtime. It was a slow and gentle process with little upset, but it was a difficult decision to make nonetheless. Even in hindsight, I am not convinced that it was the right choice to make, but neither am I convinced it was the wrong one. It simply is what it is.

I was positively thrilled when, 21 months after my first son was born, my period finally returned. I began to truly enjoy nursing my toddler in a way that, until then, had been clouded by frustration over its corresponding lack of fertility. I had love the warm snuggliness of nursing a newborn, the sweet silliness of nursing a happy baby, and the precious bonding of nursing a yearling, but this business of nursing a toddler was something entirely different. There were the breastfed dinosaurs and cars. The sly requests for milk when he knew the answer would be no, and the laughing attempts to latch on anyway. The sleepy cuddles while nursing in the morning. The relief of being able to nurse a sick child who would eat and drink nothing else.

When we found that we were joyfully expecting our second child, I was grateful for each week that my milk supply remained unaffected. I temporarily returned to work full time, and while I was sad to leave my son, it was a good four months of bonding between him and his dad. Because I left before he woke up, he no longer nursed in the morning. For a while he would nurse when I came home for lunch, but it wasn't long before he stopped asking and we simply ate lunch together. As my sensitivity to nursing grew along with my stomach, I nightweaned him, which he accepted with relative ease. In this way, he went from three nursing sessions a day plus nightwakings, to only one nursing session at bedtime. He was a little over two years old at this point.

Then my milk supply disappeared, and the pain while nursing increased. I began to shorten the length of time for which I would nurse him at bedtime, replacing that nighttime routine with other methods of comfort. By the time he was two and a half, he nursed for only a minute or less at bedtime. Then it was mere seconds. Then it was less than a second - not even a real latch on. I joked to my husband that he was just "kissing them goodnight" by that point. One night, instead of wanting milk, he asked to lay on them, leaning against my bare chest for a short while before climbing in bed. Then...nothing.

Not that he ignored them. Not at all! He just seemed to transfer their possession to his yet-to-be-born little brother. He had been aware for a long time that he would have to share mommy's milk with the new baby. Now that he was done nursing, he was content to hand them over entirely. Any mention of them was done in conjunction with the baby. He no longer asked to nurse, but he would occasionally state that when the milk came back after the baby was born, he could have mommy's milk again.

He never did. While he often watched the baby nurse and commented on the baby having mommy's milk, he never once asked to have any himself. It was with both relief and disappointment that I could say it officially - my little boy was weaned.

He was growing up.

Our nursing relationship had been a precious time. Its comfort has now been replaced with other comforts, its bonding has been replaced with other activities, and its nutrition is no longer relied upon. While I still question the limits imposed at 18 months, and wonder how long he would have nursed if not for the pregnancy, it was done, for the most part, on his terms and in his timing.

Weaning My Youngest: Easy and Unexpected

Our second son was born soon after our first had weaned. He, too, had a smooth start to breastfeeding, and I enjoyed the lack of pain this second time around.

With my younger son, I found I had a less romantic and more practical view of breastfeeding. He needed to be fed and I had just the tools for the job. He seemed to feel likewise; unlike my oldest, who would nurse for long sessions at a time, this one was a very "get down to business" sort of baby. And comfort nursing? Don't even think about it. Yet on difficult days, when my nursling and I found ourselves feeding off each other's grumpiness, nursing allowed us to take a break and quietly snuggle and reconnect, walking away a few minutes later in much better spirits.

After passing the one year mark, we became fully entrenched in the typical early-toddler stage of increased nursing. He wanted to nurse constantly. This was an adjustment for me after his first year of nursing only for nourishment, but I soon got used to our new normal. With each passing month, my "not right now's" slowly began to increase. It was less deliberate than the nursing session reduction that I put in place when my oldest was 18 months. By 18 months with the younger one, his main nursing sessions happened at naptime and bedtime, when he would nurse most or all of the way to sleep. During the remainder of the day, I would generally accommodate his requests for milk, but sometimes I would offer a drink, snack, or activity in its place.

For the next few months, the same pattern remained in place. He passed the intense early-toddler stage and then, to my surprise, began to drop nursing sessions all on his own. He nightweaned himself. He stopped nursing at naptime and bedtime himself. He asked less frequently during the day. It was so different than my experience with my first son; I didn't quite know what to make of it.

22 months after his birth, my period returned at last, and soon we were expecting our third child. Nursing became only slightly more painful, a welcome change from my first experience of nursing while pregnant. And still he continued to nurse less with no prompting from me.

By the time he turned two, he was barely nursing at all. Sometimes he would go days without and I would wonder if he had weaned, only to have him ask to nurse again later that day. After a two-week long stretch, I was sure he was done; again he proved me wrong by sleepily snuggling against me to nurse early one morning. I remember kissing his head and inhaling his sweet smell. I remember the feeling of his little body tucked against me, and I remember how heartwarming it felt after its two week absence. I also remember that it was the last time he ever nursed.

He wasn't even two and a half. Although there was again a sense of both relief and disappointment, the disappointment was stronger this time. It had been so abrupt, so different than the long and slow process my older child had taken. I was plagued with self-doubt: Had I turned him down too often? Was it my fault he had weaned? Was it because of me that he had lacked the strong emotional connection to breastfeeding that my older child had had?

Now when he sees my breasts, he talks about how the baby will drink Mommy's milk one day. He never asks for milk himself or suggests, as his older brother had, that he too will have milk when it returns after the baby is born. He's done, and he's okay with it.

And I'm learning to be okay with it too.

Preparing for a New Nursling

Now here I am again, preparing to begin from the start, a sweet little baby to nurse over the next months and years. More darling gazes, more tiny hands patting my side, more lovely milk breath; more spit up, more wet shirts, more laundry; more nourishment, more bonding, more comfort. I look forward to watching the evolution of another nursing relationship, with its myriad of benefits and its own beautifully unique path. I expect that this new child's eventual weaning will be much the same as that of his older brothers, with partial weaning initiated by me and ultimate weaning left up to him, a gradual and gentle process that evolves along with the individual child.

Despite the questions, self-doubt, and second guessing myself, my experiences with weaning two children have also given me a renewed confidence. When someone warns me that my babies will never wean if I nurse on demand, I can think back to my own boys' weaning stories, each one unique in how it happened but equally gentle in its approach. However it happens, whatever their stories, whatever their ages, my babies will one day wean, and we will move together into a new stage in our relationship.

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Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):


Monday, 18 July 2011

Attachment Parenting: A Christian perspective

Today in our Attachment Parenting Series, we will be discussing Attachment Parenting from a Christian perspective. If you have written a post on faith as it relates to Attachment Parenting, please do share it with us in the comments below!


Introduction

We are our children's first picture of God. It is of utmost importance that the picture we give them is as accurate as our human selves can offer. This requires that we ourselves first have a holistic understanding of God’s character.

When reading Scripture, it is helpful to take note of the many descriptions of God’s character. These descriptions tell us how God interacts with His children, and we can use them as a model as we raise our own children in love and grace. While the details will be different for each family, an exploration of God’s character reveals a strong congruence with the underlying values of Attachment Parenting.

Three Truths

There are three distinct areas that support a relational, attachment-based style of parenting: God’s character, God’s design, and Christian instruction. We will explore each and its relation to Attachment Parenting below.

God’s character

God answers our cries (Jonah 2:2), draws us with loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:3), and is slow to anger and rich in love (Psalm 145:8). He comforts us “as a mother comforts her child” (Isaiah 66:13) and has compassion on us “as a father has compassion on his children” (Psalm 103:13). His kindness leads us towards repentance (Romans 2:4).

We discover more of God’s character in the parable Jesus tells about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). After the younger son squanders his wealth on wild living and prostitutes, he returns to his father, hungry and ashamed. Rather than chastise him, his father was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him, kissed him, and called to the servants to prepare a celebratory feast.

The more we understand God’s character, the better we can present that picture of God to our children through our words and actions. We build their perception of God as we answer their cries, treat them with kindness, withhold our anger, lavish them with love, comfort them, have compassion on them, and celebrate them as a unique creation of God. Attachment Parenting encourages this responsive, wooing, relationship-based approach to raising our children.

God’s design

God created our babies, their cues, and our instinctive response to those cues. He gave us the hormones that facilitate bonding, the ability to nourish our babies through breastfeeding, and the means to naturally space our children through lactation induced amenorrhea.

By design, babies cry to signal their needs, and their mothers respond to that cry both physically (as their milk lets down) and psychologically (by wanting to pick up and comfort or nurse the child). Our babies feel safest when sleeping near their mothers, and mothers as well often sleep easier when their children are nearby. Babies thrive on touch, and a high-touch attachment relationship offers physiological and psychological benefits to both parent and child.

Breastfeeding imagery is used extensively in Scripture (see, for example, Isaiah 60:16, Isaiah 66:11, and Psalm 22:9). There is perhaps no place that should be more encouraging of this natural, God-designed practice than the church, and yet too often it is those within the church who hide nursing mothers in back rooms, holding fast instead to a misguided and misdirected notion of modesty. Breastfeeding is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. The infant, likewise, develops a strong emotional security as he learns to trust that his needs will be quickly and appropriately responded to. The more sensitive a mother becomes to her child's cues, the better the child becomes at giving those cues. This is the beginning of communication and connection between mother and child.

As connection grows, the mother/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The resulting mutual trust and sensitivity is the basis of the parent/child relationship and the foundation upon which future discipline will rely. The better the mother knows her child, and the more the child trusts his or her mother, the easier discipline will be as the child grows.

Each of the AP tools serves to strengthen that foundation, which will be built on with each passing year. (More about this in the next installment of the Attachment Parenting series, "Attachment Parenting: Beyond the baby years".) Not every family will use every tool or use them in the same way. It is the heart behind the tool – the desire to respond sensitively to our children’s needs and to seek ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting parent/child relationship – that is of true importance.

Christian instruction

Scripture offers many instructions for Christians on how to practically live out the commands to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. None of these instructions exclude children.

The Bible instructs us to comfort those who mourn, to feed those who are hungry, and to love the unlovely. We are instructed to be compassionate, to sacrifice, and to extend mercy to others. We are exhorted to be gentle and kind, building others up through our encouraging words. When we are walking in the Spirit and practically living out our faith, our lives will begin to bear the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We circumvent the work of the Spirit when we accept a quick parenting fix in place of the sacrificial hard work involved in relational parenting, with its goal of heart-level change. This sort of convenience parenting – such as leaving an infant to cry alone, spanking a child, or yelling and punishing instead of guiding and teaching – serves the desires of flesh (ease, convenience, outward appearances). It may have short-term gains, but it fails to pay off in the long-term.

When we are living according to the Word, however, we will seek to apply these exhortations not only to other adults, but to our children as well. We will comfort them when they cry, feed them when they are hungry, and sacrifice sleep to meet their nighttime needs. We will be kind and gentle, speaking words of encouragement into their lives. We will guide them in grace and mercy. We will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit to them rather than demand it from them. In all these things, whatever we do “for the least of these”, we do for Christ himself (Matthew 25:31-46).

Jesus told his disciples that “if anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He then took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking the child into his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37). We are called to a life of loving servanthood. To deny such service to a child is to refuse Christ himself.

God is love (1 John 4:8). Paul describes love in his first letter to the Corinthians:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Patience. Kindness. Humility. Slow to anger and quick to forgive. Protective and persevering. These must be the hallmarks of our love as demonstrated to our children. Attachment Parenting provides a holistic approach to demonstrating this love in the context of a healthy parent/child relationship.

Three Heresies

There are three heresies that have worked their way into much of the church, all of which serve to draw us away from a natural, instinctive approach to raising our children. These beliefs encourage a harsh, rule-based approach instead, often starting with newborn babies.

Our children must be punished for their sins

Jesus died for the sins of all, breaking death’s hold on us and opening the way for our restored relationship with God. To say that further punishment is required is to negate the message of the Gospel, and yet many of the big Christian authors will tell you that your child’s salvation depends on you punishing them. Punishment is considered the method of paying for their sin and removing the child’s guilt.

This is completely contrary to the message of the Gospel, which says that all of our sins have already been put to death by Christ on the cross. Punishing our child again takes away from that message. It says that what Christ has already done was not enough.

The idea that any parenting method can save a child is likewise contrary to the Gospel. Only the Holy Spirit can draw our children to Christ. Only Christ can save our children through faith. This faith is a gift of God, lest any man (or parent) should boast.

Moreover, punishment is often unrealistic, as we begin to demand more from our children than we expect from ourselves. We talk of God’s mercy, grace, patience, and kindness when speaking of ourselves; should we then demand perfect obedience from our children and punish them when they fail to achieve it? Our debt has been paid through Christ. We must be cautious, then, not turn around and demand payment from our children for their wrongdoings, lest we become as the unmerciful servant of which we were warned.

God punishes His children when they sin

Rather than saving them, punishment presents a distorted view of God to our children. God raises His children with grace and mercy, not punishment. In His love, He does allow us to experience the natural consequences of our actions, but He does not punish us or send us away from Him. Likewise, Jesus did not punish His disciples, but rather patiently taught them and guided them toward a fuller understanding of God.

The idea that God punishes His children is contrary to His grace. It further serves to negate the Gospel, suggesting that further punishment is needed on top of what Christ has already accomplished on the cross. We feel pain when we sin because we are walking apart from God and from His best for our lives. This pain is self-inflicted as we choose separation from His loving guidance. When we repent and turn back to God, He forgives us without first demanding repayment or inflicting punishment. We are called to offer this same generous forgiveness to those around us - including our children.

God is Love. God is good and merciful, the same then, now, and forevermore. It is a flawed understanding of His character that leads to delineation between the “wrathful” God of the Old Testament and the “merciful” God of the New Testament.

Some argue that God punishes His enemies, those who are evil and unrepentant. Our children are not our enemies and their childish antics are not evil. Even if that were not the case, we are instructed not to take revenge, nor to repay evil for evil, for the Lord is judge and it is His to avenge.

Rules and good behaviour produce Godly people

A strict focus on rules and behaviour suggests that what matters is our outward behaviour. Scripture tells us, however, that God looks at the heart. This misplaced focus also suggests that rules can keep us in line, and yet the Law proved otherwise – and “grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20).

There often seems within the Christian community to be a hyper-focus on verses intended for others. In this case, many parents quote Ephesians 6:1 (“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”), and yet ignore the verse directed towards parents that follows (“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and discipline of the Lord.”). It is not our place to make our children obey us; that verse contains an instruction for them, not for us. Rather, it is our duty to “bring them up in the training and discipline of the Lord”.

Indeed, we cannot make our children obey us. We can make them comply with our instructions, but true obedience comes from the heart. That sort of obedience can never be demanded from anyone. It arises from a relationship of love and trust. As parents who wish to assist our children in fulfilling that command, we must tenderly cultivate a mutually loving and trusting relationship with them, in order that out of that they may respond to us in true heartfelt obedience.

A proper understanding of child development enables parents to respond to their children in a helpful and understanding way. It allows parents to put aside the false notion that babies cry to manipulate rather than communicate, or that their child’s immature behaviours are sinful rather than normal (and ultimately healthy) developmental stages. With a solid understanding of age-expected behaviours in place, parents are able to actively and respectfully move their children from inappropriate behaviours to appropriate ones, guiding them towards what they should do rather than focusing on what they shouldn’t do.

There is no fear in love (1 John 4:18). You cannot beat a child into salvation. A child is not saved through a parent punishing him in order to "atone for his sin". A child is not saved by "being good". A child is saved through a relationship with Jesus Christ - nothing more, nothing less - and anything that suggests otherwise is outright heresy.

Summary

A child’s deepest understanding of God will be formed through their relationship with their parents. In order to ensure we model an accurate picture of God, we must first understand God’s character, design, and instructions for living.

God’s character is one of kindness, compassion, and love. God’s design encourages nearness and responsiveness. Christian instruction points us towards the sort of sacrificial love that leads to the fruit of the Spirit being evident in our lives.

Each of these three areas speaks to the heart of Attachment Parenting. Far more than merely the decision to breastfeed or co-sleep, Attachment Parenting encourages a responsive, relationship-based approach to raising our children. This is what an examination of Scripture calls us to, that we woo our children with kindness, guide them with gentleness, and respond sensitively to their needs. Attachment Parenting provides a holistic approach to demonstrating God’s love and grace to our children in the context of a healthy parent/child relationship.

There are three lies that serve to pull us away from this responsive, relational, instinctive style of parenting. First is the belief that our children must be punished for their wrongdoings. Similarly, next is the belief that God punishes His children for their sins. Last is the belief that rules and good behaviour produce Godly children. Each of these beliefs is contrary to the message of the Gospel, and each serves to suggest that what Christ accomplished on the cross was either insufficient or unnecessary for our salvation and the salvation of our children.

The wages of sin is death, separation from God. It was the sacrifice of Jesus that allowed restoration and reconciliation, opening the way to eternal life. Our children are saved through that relationship, not through punishment, good behaviour, or fear. God loves you, and He loves our children. We must be careful to treat them at all times as cherished creations of a Holy God.

Not every parent will choose to use all of the AP tools, nor choose to use them in the same way. It is not the specifics that are demanded of us, but rather the relational approach behind them. The more we understand God’s character, design, and instructions, the better we can determine the specifics in a way that is right for our family, with an understanding of the underlying heart and purpose: responding sensitively to our children’s needs and seeking ways to build and strengthen a mutually-trusting relationship with them.


“But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7



Recommended Reading:

Parenting Freedom
Gentle Christian Mothers
The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson
The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Beware of baby trainers

Welcome to our sixth installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Beware of baby trainers! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own information and experiences!


What is it?

The phrase "beware of baby trainers" warns the parent to be cautious of advice that recommends a rigid schedule-based style of parenting, typically at the expense of trusting the parent's instincts and the baby's cues.

How can we encourage it?

At the core of attachment parenting is a parent/child connection based on mutual trust. This trust is developed as the parent reads and responds to the child's cues, leading to effective communication and deeper connection between the two.

As this mutual trust and connection grows, the parent/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The parent trusts the child's cues as well as their own ability to meet the child's needs. The parent becomes the expert on their own individual child.

What the advice of baby trainers does, however, is undermine that cue-response cycle, thereby disrupting the mutual trust and connection between parent and child. It discourages the parent from trusting both their instincts and their child's cues, placing the baby trainer as the expert in place of the parent. It promises highly desirable results if the parent "trains" the baby by following a rigid, often harsh, schedule-based style of parenting.

What baby trainers offer is a one-size-fits-all approach to changing a baby’s behaviour, whether in regards to feeding, sleeping, or interacting with the parents. These strict rules, however, fail to take into account the baby’s feelings and individual needs. Unfortunately, the results of baby training typically bring short-term gain coupled with long-term loss. While the short-term results may be convenient, the damage to the child and to the parent/child relationship may be long-lasting and irreparable.

One of the big baby-training dangers is its threat to breastfeeding. Babies fed on a schedule rather than on cue are at risk of slow weight gain, early weaning, dehydration, and failure to thrive. Because the mother’s milk supply adjusts based on demand, the mother who feeds on a schedule is at risk of low milk supply due to her body’s inability to take into account her baby’s growth spurts, metabolism, or changing nutritional needs. Breastfeeding provides more than nutrition, however; schedule-based feeding prevents the pair from nursing for emotional comfort.

When the parent is watching the clock instead of child, important cues are overlooked. Crying is a late sign of hunger, and yet the scheduled baby is often pacified because it’s not “feeding time” yet.

Despite the dangers of excessive crying, baby trainers typically advocate some form of leaving a child to cry in order to establish a new sleep schedule. Parents are often warned not to allow the “bad habit” of co-sleeping. This early push for a child to sleep alone and all night brings with it many dangers, including an increased risk of SIDS, and further fails to meet the child’s emotional needs.

Baby trainers will often protest that their sleep schedules are not intended for younger babies (while others unabashedly promote a “from birth” plan to have the new baby sleeping through the night early on). The parent, however, lacking trust in the baby’s cues and in their own parenting expertise and intuition, is in danger of applying the advice to the extreme.

Many baby trainers also advocate pushing early autonomy through the use of “playpen time”, in which the child is expected to entertain themselves for a predetermined amount of time. Parents are discouraged from holding their baby “too much” for fear of producing a clingy, spoiled child, ignoring all evidence that says otherwise. Babies thrive on touch, and this hands-off style of parenting affects both the child and the parent/child bond.

Contrary to the advice of baby trainers, attachment parenting encourages the parent to discover their own individualized style of parenting within the attachment-promoting boundaries of AP. These boundaries, at their most basic, encourage the parent to know their child and respond to their child’s cues, trusting those cues and the parent’s own instincts above those who claim to know better than you do what’s best for your family. A high-touch, attachment-based approach to parenting builds confident parents and emotionally-secure children, allowing the children to achieve healthy independence at the appropriate developmental stage.

What if it doesn't happen?

Too many parents fall prey to these baby trainers at the expense of trusting their own instincts. With the abundance of parenting books available, it can be difficult for parents to know what to believe or which books to avoid. The temptation to follow the advice of a baby trainer becomes particularly tempting when the parent finds themself desperate for change in the midst of a challenging situation, most often related to sleep. When reading or listening to baby-training advice, the parent should proceed with caution in order to maintain their parenting instincts and keep the attachment relationship intact.

Watch for red flags

There are a few common threads that run through popular baby-training advice. These red flags warn the parent that the advice can have harmful and long-lasting consequences to either the baby's health or the parent/child relationship. Some of these red flags include advice that:
  • contradicts AAP breastfeeding recommendations, including parent-directed or schedule-based feeding
  • presents an adversarial "us versus them" view of children, including the idea that babies cry to manipulate rather than communicate
  • promotes a rigid "one size fits all" schedule
  • discounts the baby’s feelings and individual needs
  • discourages parents from responding to the baby's cries
  • encourages parents to leave a baby to play alone for long stretches of time
  • warns against holding the baby “too much”
  • recommends physical chastisement for babies
  • denies the parent’s intuition or expertise in regards to their baby

Watch your baby

When accepting the advice of baby trainers, it becomes even more important to carefully watch the baby. Continue to read and respond to the baby’s cues, putting their individual needs above the training advice. Watch closely for signs of slow weight gain, dehydration, lethargy, developmental regression, detachment, and failure to thrive.

Trust your instincts

If it feels wrong, it probably is. Mothers are biologically designed to respond to their baby’s cries. When left alone, parents will instinctively comfort a crying baby, feed a hungry baby, and keep their baby close to them. Be wary of any advice that recommends doing otherwise.

Seek gentler alternatives

While the temptation to accept even harsh baby training advice is understandable in the sleep-deprived parent, explore gentle alternatives first. For instance, many of the popular sleep-trainers, including Ezzo (Babywise), Ferber (Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems), and Hogg (The Baby Whisperer), recommend training methods that require leaving the baby to cry, ranging from some form of controlled crying to the extreme cry-it-out method. Gentle alternatives include Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Dr. William Sears’ Sleep Problems Information or Nighttime Parenting book, and Dr. Jay Gordon’s Night Weaning Method. The same principle applies to other forms of baby training.

Repair and reconnect

For parents who have followed the advice of baby trainers at the expense of their instincts, expertise, and trust in their baby’s cues, it is important that the parent/child pair reestablish connection going forward. At the basis of this connection will be healthy communication, mutual trust, an awareness of the child’s unique needs, and a sensitive response to those needs. Parents can use play to connect with their child and help them work through their feelings. A straightforward discussion and apology can be immensely healing for both the parent and child.

Our experiences

Having an understanding of attachment parenting before my child was born gave me the confidence to trust my instincts and my child's cues. I was naturally wary of any suggestion that I watch the clock rather than my baby. I recognized the red flags in advice that pushed a "hands-off" approach to parenting - put the baby down rather than hold him "too much", nurse when it's "time" rather than when the baby is hungry, ignore his cries lest I be "manipulated".

Rather than the chaos I was warned of, I discovered that my babies soon fell into a natural cycle. As I watched, a predictable pattern emerged in their eating, sleeping, and wakeful periods, and yet lacking the stress and worry of having to ensure they ate and slept at a specific time. Rather than being a burden, attachment parenting allowed us calm and peaceful interactions as I learned to read their cues and meet their individual and ever-changing needs.

Summary

Attachment parenting warns parents to be wary of advice that recommends adopting a rigid schedule-based style of parenting or changing a baby's behaviour for convenience purposes. This advise undermines the parent's own expertise in regards to their child, discouraging the parent from trusting their instincts or their baby's cues.

These one-size-fits-all rules fail to take into account the baby's feelings and individual needs. They are a threat to breastfeeding, leading to failure to thrive when taken to the extreme. The parent learns to watch the clock, missing opportunities to learn and respond to their baby's cues. Parents are often encouraged to leave their children to cry in order to establish the desired sleep patterns, despite the dangers associated with excessive crying. A hands-off style of parenting is often encouraged to the detriment of the child and the parent/child bond. Because the parent loses the ability to trust their intuition and the baby's cues, they become susceptible to taking the advice to a dangerous extreme.

When listening to or reading baby-training advice, the discerning parent will watch for red flags, such as advice that discourages them from comforting a crying baby, feeding a hungry baby, or keeping their baby close. When implementing a baby-training method, it becomes even more important to watch the baby closely both for cues that indicate an individual need as well as signs of physical danger such as slow weight gain or dehydration. Whatever the advice, the parent should always trust their instincts. When change is needed, gentler alternatives should be explored before harsh baby-training methods. For parents who have followed the advice of baby trainers at the expense of their instincts, expertise, and trust in their child's cues, it is important that the parent/child pair reestablish connection going forward.

Babyhood lasts only a short time, but the ramifications of this stage last a lifetime. Long-term health and attachment should not be exchanged for short-term convenience. Rather than undermining the parent's expertise and intuition, attachment parenting encourages the parent to know their individual child and respond to their child's cues, leading to confident parents and emotionally-secure children.


Recommended Reading:

Ezzo Info
Getting wise to "Babywise" by Katie Granju
The Baby Book and The Attachment Parenting Book by William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.
Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent by Meredith Small


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to baby training. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our seventh installment - Balance!


Monday, 21 February 2011

Attachment Parenting Series: Breastfeeding

Welcome to our second installment of the Attachment Parenting Series - Breastfeeding! Don't forget to use the Mister Linky at the bottom to share your own breastfeeding information and experiences!


What is it?

Breastfeeding is the act of providing human milk to an infant or young child via the mother's breasts. In the attachment parenting sense, breastfeeding has both a physical and relational component and as such can be extended to a variety of other feeding methods.

How can we encourage it?

Breastfeeding is such a multi-faceted topic. In the name of brevity, I will be focusing on those aspects of breastfeeding that most relate to Attachment Parenting. For a more comprehensive look at breastfeeding and its many benefits and potential difficulties, I encourage you to check out the recommended reading below.

Benefits

During breastfeeding, the hormones oxytocin and prolactin are released. These hormones reduce the stress hormone cortisol and facilitate bonding between the mother and her new child. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract, thereby assisting in expelling the placenta, controlling postpartum bleeding, and returning the uterus to its normal size. Oxytocin also causes the mother's milk to let down.

In addition to the benefits of these hormones, there are numerous other physical benefits related to breastfeeding. The breastfed baby receives complete nutrition uniquely tailored to him or her. The antibodies in breastmilk protect a child from many illnesses, and breastfed children have stronger immune systems and fewer allergies. Breastfed children experience a reduced risk of asthma, excema, diarrhea, Crohn's disease, respiratory infections, ear infections, childhood diabetes, childhood cancers, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, pneumonia, Vit A deficiency, future autoimmune disorders and more. They benefit from appropriate jaw, teeth, speech, and overall facial development. They also have increased cognitive and intellectual development as well as better vision.

The breastfeeding mother also experiences numerous physical benefits, including a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, bone disease, arthritis, and more. She also experiences, in many cases, a delayed return of fertility when practicing ecological breastfeeding. There are also the benefits of convenience (always available, completely portable, and no extra supplies needed) and cost (free!) to consider.

Breastfeeding also brings significant relational benefits to the mother/child pair. The mother's body continues to provide nourishment, warmth, comfort and safety, just as it did when the baby was in the womb. A combination of physical proximity and hormones makes breastfeeding an ideal bonding moment. On difficult days, breastfeeding can allow the pair a chance to peacefully reconnect with each other. Breastfeeding will often calm and comfort an upset, hurt, or overwhelmed child, providing them with a quiet moment of solace at their mother's breast.

Breastfeeding is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. This is a central theme throughout Attachment Parenting. The infant, likewise, develops a strong emotional security as he learns to trust that his needs will be quickly and appropriately responded to. The more sensitive a mother becomes to her child's cues, the better the child becomes at giving those cues. This is the beginning of communication and connection between mother and child. As connection grows, the mother/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive. The resulting mutual trust and sensitivity is the basis of the parent/child relationship and the foundation upon which future discipline will rely. The better the mother knows her child, and the more the child trusts his or her mother, the easier discipline will be as the child grows.

Getting off to the right start

Because of these physical and relational benefits, it is important that a mother and baby have the best start possible with breastfeeding. This begins with education - knowing beforehand the many benefits of breastfeeding as well as the potential difficulties and how to overcome them.

Gentle birth choices increase the odds of a successful breastfeeding relationship. Once the infant is born, it is ideal that he or she have immediate access to the mother's breast. In addition to the physical benefits to the baby and to the breastfeeding relationship as a whole, this bonding opportunity will give the attachment relationship a strong start. Medical interference disrupts this period of strongest bonding instinct and can impair the infant's rooting reflex.

Frequent feedings over the next 2-5 days will provide the infant with nutrient-dense colostrum and will help the mother's milk to come in. To protect the breastfeeding relationship, ensure that no artificial nipples, pacifiers, sugar water or formula are given to the baby. It is important to ensure a good latch right from the beginning. A good lactation consultant or La Leche League leader can assist in troubleshooting any breastfeeding difficulties that arise.

The next few months

Direct breastfeeding is the most natural and beneficial way to feed a baby (alternatives will be discussed below). To protect the breastfeeding relationship, avoid the use of bottles or pacifiers in the early weeks, as this can lead to nipple confusion, flow preference, and lazy suckling. There is no need to use a bottle so that the father can have an opportunity to feed the child; he will have many other opportunities to bond with his new son or daughter in a way that does not threaten the breastfeeding relationship.

Because the frequency and duration of breastfeeding affects the mother's milk supply, the baby should be fed on cue rather than on a predetermined schedule and should be allowed to suckle for as long as he or she desires. This will ensure that the mother's milk supply is well established in the early weeks and that extra milk is produced during growth spurts. Put aside any notion that feeding on cue will result in a spoiled child. A child whose needs are met now will grow to become emotionally secure, empathetic, and independent, while a child who is pushed into early independence is likely to become needy and clingy instead.

Recognize the signs of hunger - rooting, sticking out tongue, opening and closing mouth, sucking on fist - and offer the breast before before the baby cries. Crying is a very late sign of hunger. Waiting until the baby reaches that stage before breastfeeding him will result in a tired, upset baby who is likely to nurse poorly and fall asleep before receiving a full feeding.

It is, however, to be expected that a baby will fall asleep after a feeding. During breastfeeding, both mother and child release hormones that help them sleep. These hormones, combined with a full stomach and the comfort of his mother's closeness, make it natural for a baby to sleep after eating. This is contrary to much of the popular advice given by "parenting experts", such as the "Eat - Wake - Sleep" cycle laid out by Gary Ezzo in his book Babywise, or the similar EASY cycle - "Eat - Activity - Sleep - You" - recommended by Tracy Hogg in her book The Baby Whisperer. (More about baby trainers later on in the Attachment Parenting Series.) Such a cycle is entirely counter-intuitive and works against the natural sleep-inducing properties of breastfeeding.

The first days or weeks may be painful. Determine ahead of time to work through those early difficulties; a goal of six weeks should get you over the hump and into the far easier and more natural months ahead. Your local La Leche League chapter can be an invaluable support for you during this time. Breastfeeding is not always enjoyable. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's boring, and sometimes it's downright annoying. Persevere! Be committed to breastfeeding for all the good it can do for you and your child. This is one of a mother's first opportunities to choose the best for her child even when it is inconvenient to her.

Don't be afraid to nurse your baby wherever you need to. There is no need to hide at home, in the car, or in a back room while breastfeeding. The reason breastfeeding makes people uncomfortable is because they don’t see it enough! Use a blanket if it makes you feel more comfortable, but be aware that doing so is likely to bring more attention to what you are doing. Being confident and matter-of-fact about breastfeeding your baby in public will go a long way in deterring any negative comments.

During the first six months, the baby should be fed exclusively with breastmilk. After six months, solids may be introduced if the child is showing signs of readiness. There is no rush, however, as a delayed introduction of solids has many benefits. As with breastfeeding, know your individual child and follow their cues to know when and how much solids to offer. A baby-led self-feeding approach is ideal. Solids should be considered part of a child's play and experimentation at this age, with breastmilk being the primary source of nutrition throughout the baby's first year.

Extended breastfeeding

Over time, breastfeeding becomes less about nutrition and more about meeting a young child's emotional needs. There is no need to wean a child once they hit the one year mark. Extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding beyond one year) provides numerous physical, emotional, and relational benefits.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first one year of life, and states that "there is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer." The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at an increased risk of illness. The average age of weaning worldwide is four years.

Breastfeeding is a loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It provides respite when overwhelmed, comfort when frustrated or hurt, nutrition when sick, and reconnection for the young child who is now beginning greater exploration of his world apart from his mother. The closeness and availability of the mother through breastfeeding provides security and reassurance, allowing them to grow and mature emotionally. Extended breastfeeding provides a gradual transition from babyhood into childhood.

It is important for the sake of the breastfeeding relationship that nursing manners be introduced and gently enforced early on. Babies can be redirected to a nursing necklace or small toy to discourage excessive twiddling, pinching, or scratching. Toddlers should be expected to ask politely to nurse, using either a word or a sign. Older toddlers may be redirected to a snack or activity, as the need may be, if the mother is unable or unwilling to nurse at that moment.

Gentle weaning

It is extremely rare for a child to self-wean before one year of age. A temporary nursing strike may occur as the older baby becomes more aware of and distracted by his environment. This lack of interest in nursing should not be misinterpreted as weaning. Continue to offer the breast, preferably in a quiet location, and in time the child's interest will return and breastfeeding can resume as normal, with all its many benefits.

Weaning will happen eventually, however. For the Attachment Parent, this may happen in one of two ways:
  • Child-led weaning: This occurs when the child self-weans, typically between the ages of two and four, because he or she no longer needs to breastfeed either nutritionally or emotionally.
  • Gradual weaning: This occurs when the mother initiates the weaning process before the child is fully ready.

While child-led weaning is the ideal, many mothers choose to initiate the weaning process for a variety of reasons. Gradual weaning should be a slow, flexible and gentle process. The particular approach will vary depending on the individual needs and desires of the mother and child.

Partial weaning is a good first step for the mother who finds herself needing to cut back on breastfeeding. This may involve night weaning, cutting out most (or all) day feeding, transitioning to a new method of helping the child fall asleep, nursing only at set times of the day, or any other combination that allows the mother to feel able and willing to otherwise continue breastfeeding her child. Because the breastfeeding relationship as a whole will be able to carry on, the child will receive its continued nutritional and emotional benefits.

A sudden "cold-turkey" approach to weaning is almost never recommended due to the distress it will cause both to the child (emotionally) and to the mother (engorgement, clogged milk ducts, and drastic hormone changes).

What if it doesn't happen?

There are times when breastfeeding does not happen. Sometimes this is due to medical issues or insurmountable breastfeeding difficulties. Other times, the mother makes a deliberate decision not to breastfeed, for any number of reasons. Fortunately, many of the attachment-related benefits of breastfeeding can be maintained while using alternative feeding methods.

Supplemental nursing system

A supplemental nursing system (SNS) is a device that allows the infant to suckle at the breast while also receiving supplementation (either pumped breastmilk or formula) through a tube attached to the nipple. This provides many of the same benefits of breastfeeding and can encourage a mother's low milk supply to increase in hopes of eventually transitioning to full-time breastfeeding without the SNS.

Bottle-nursing

If the intent is that supplementation will be temporary, with full-time breastfeeding being the ultimate goal, consider using one of the many bottle alternatives. However, if bottle-feeding is a necessity, it can be done so in a way that supports breastfeeding (when used in conjunction with breastfeeding, such as for the working mother) or mimics breastfeeding (so as to ensure the baby's cues are being followed and the infant is consuming the ideal amount of food). These steps are outlined here.

Breastmilk alternatives

While breastmilk directly from the breast is the ideal, pumped breastmilk from the mother should be the second choice. Donated milk from a milk bank should be explored third, with formula being the next alternative in line.

Skin-to-skin contact

An exclusively breastfed baby receives skin-to-skin contact with each feeding. In the absence of breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact should be encouraged as much as possible.

Our experiences

My nursing relationship with my older son was an ever-evolving one. It began smoothly, with him latching on as soon as he was placed on my chest, and yet was not without pain - I had my husband running for the hospital gift store to pick up a tube of lanolin by the end of the first day. As the days went on, the pain lessened and I was able to relax into a each quiet session of nursing and bonding.

The next 18 months were filled with highs and lows - the joys of nursing a silly baby combined with the frustrations of wet shirts and long nights. At 18 months, desiring a second child and frustrated by a continued breastfeeding-induced lack of fertility, I began to place limits on his feedings for fear that resentment would adversely affect our breastfeeding relationship.

Shortly before his second birthday, we found we were expecting our second child. I continued to breastfeed, grateful for each week that my milk supply remained unaffected. As my sensitivity to nursing grew along with my stomach, I nightweaned him, which he accepted with relative ease. In this way, he went from three nursing sessions a day plus nightwakings, to only one nursing session at bedtime. He was a little over two years old at this point.

Eventually my milk supply disappeared and the pain while nursing increased. I began to shorten the length of time for which I would nurse him at bedtime, replacing that nighttime routine with other methods of comfort. By the time he was two and a half, he nursed for only a minute or less at bedtime. Then it was mere seconds. Then it was less than a second - not even a real latch on. I joked to my husband that he was just "kissing them goodnight" by that point. One night, instead of wanting milk, he asked to lay on them, leaning against my bare chest for a short while before climbing in bed. Then...nothing. He was truly and officially weaned.

Our second son was born soon after. He, too, had a smooth start to breastfeeding, and I enjoyed the lack of pain this second time around.

With my younger son, I find I have a less romantic and more practical view of breastfeeding. He needs to be fed, and I've got just the tools for the job. And yet on difficult days, when my nursling and I find ourselves feeding off each other's grumpiness, nursing allows us to take a break and quietly snuggle and reconnect, walking away a few minutes later in much better spirits. We've recently passed the one year mark and are now fully entrenched in the typical early-toddler stage of increased nursing. I expect that his eventual weaning will be much the same as his older brother's, with partial weaning initiated by me and ultimate weaning left up to him.

Summary

Breastfeeding is the most normative way of feeding a baby. It has numerous physical, emotional, and relational benefits for both the mother and child. It is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. As the mother and child learn to communicate through the giving and receiving of these cues, a strong connection grows between them. This connection and its resulting mutual trust and sensitivity will form the basis of the parent/child relationship and become the foundation upon which future discipline will rely.

It is important that the breastfeeding relationship get off to a good start. This can be accomplished through education, preparation, gentle birth choices, immediate postpartum bonding, and frequent nursing sessions. The baby should be fed on cue to ensure the mother builds a sufficient and well-established milk supply. Persevering through any early breastfeeding pain and difficulties will more often than not be rewarded with a long and satisfying breastfeeding relationship. Breastmilk should be the primary source of nutrition throughout the baby's first year, with any introduction of solids being considered play and exploration for the child. For the sake of the breastfeeding relationship, nursing manners should not be ignored.

Extended breastfeeding provides a growing toddler and young child with security and reassurance, allowing the child to grow into an emotionally secure, empathetic, and independent individual. While a child-led approach to weaning is ideal, many mothers choose to initiate weaning before the child is fully ready. This mother-led weaning should be gradual, gentle, and flexible. A good beginning may be partial weaning, in which some feedings are eliminated in order to allow the breastfeeding relationship as a whole to continue.

When direct breastfeeding is not an option, alternative feeding methods can be explored which support the attachment-related benefits of breastfeeding. These methods will depend on the particular circumstances, but may include the use of bottle alternatives, breastmilk alternatives, and/or bottle-nursing. Skin-to-skin contact is important in all cases. Regardless of the feeding method chosen, a mother must become adept at reading, trusting, and responding to her child's cues.


Recommended Reading:
Kellymom.com
Breastfeeding Information by Dr. Sears
So That's What They're For! by Janet Tamaro
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger


Now it's your turn! Add your link using the Mister Linky below to share your thoughts, experiences, resources, or struggles as they relate to breastfeeding. I look forward to reading them! See you next Monday for our third installment - Babywearing!


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Vacancy

A week before the baby turned one, I had a sudden moment of clarity. I turned to my half-asleep husband and said, "oh! That explains it!"

"What explains what?" he mumbled.

"It's almost the baby's first birthday! That explains why I've been so aware of my empty womb lately!"

(He groaned in response.)

It was true, though. I had, for the past couple of weeks, been very aware of the fact that a) I had a uterus, and b) it was currently empty.

It wasn't that I actively desired to have another baby right away. I have a baby, and I take care of a second one part time. I'm good in the baby department. If God chooses to bless us with another baby so soon, I will be thrilled, but I'm not currently longing for one.

I am simply very aware of my womb's presence and its current vacancy. It feels very...odd, I think, to have this womb just sitting there, taking up space, not doing anything. Just hanging out in there, vacancy sign flashing.

I can only assume that it was the baby's upcoming birthday that had pushed said vacancy so suddenly to the forefront of my mind. It was when my oldest son turned one that my husband and I started "trying" for a second child. Because I continued to breastfeed our son, however, lactational amenorrhea meant it would be nearly another year before we received our much-coveted positive pregnancy test.

This time, I do not feel the same sense of urgency. My baby is only a year old. My husband and I have chosen, for a number of reasons (physical, emotional, and spiritual) not to use birth control, and breastfeeding allows our children to be naturally spaced, God's perfect design to give a mother's body time to rest between pregnancies. I feel calm this time, content to accept and appreciate that spacing, looking forward to having life fill this vacant womb again but not yearning for it to happen now, on my timing. Instead, I will enjoy and rejoice in my little one's babyhood, being fully present in each moment, not rushing this season away prematurely.

My womb may be vacant, but my heart and my life are so beautifully full.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Capitalizing on breastfeeding moms

Similac has a new kid on the block here in Canada: Similac Mom, a nutritional beverage for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

What a brilliant marketing scheme.

Brand Loyalty

Hook 'em early. Prey on a pregnant mother's fears, convince her that she needs your product to ensure both she and the growing child in her womb are receiving all the nutrition they need. And when that child is born? Well, do they have the formula for you! You cannot be trusted. Your body cannot be trusted. You need their products.

I found this quote for the Singapore equivalent to be rather telling:
"During my second pregnancy, I started drinking Similac Mum, the new maternal supplement by the maker of Similac Follow-On. It gave me the nutrients required for my baby's overall development during pregnancy and breastfeeding. What's more, it is low in fat, helping me to get back in shape faster.

When the time is right, I will surely give my new baby Similac Follow-On. So that he can be strong and healthy, like his big brother. Clearly, there is a special bond between me, my babies and Similac."

Expanded Target Market

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. If you can't get the babies, go after the moms instead. They'll get your money one way or another. Can't convince a mother that she needs infant formula? Fine. After all, "breast is best", blah blah blah. But you must make sure that you are getting all the nutrition you need while you're breastfeeding, for your sake and the sake of your breastfed child. Enter Similac Mom, for all your complete-nutrition-while-breastfeeding needs! (Oh yes, and when you're done with that cute little breastfeeding stuff, we're right here with your baby and toddler formulas.)

But What's in It?

Their ingredient list isn't quite so reassuring:
Water, sugar (sucrose), sodium and calcium caseinate, corn maltodextrin, high oleic safflower oil, canola oil, soy protein isolate, corn oil, potassium citrate, sodium citrate, calcium phosphate, magnesium phosphate, natural and artificial flavour, magnesium chloride, salt (sodium chloride), soy lecithin, potassium phosphate, carrageenan, ascorbic acid, zinc sulphate, ferrous sulphate, niacinamide, dl-α-tocopheryl acetate, manganese sulphate, cupric sulphate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin A palmitate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine chloride hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, potassium iodide, sodium molybdate, biotin, sodium selenate, chromium chloride, vitamin D3, cyanocobalamin.

With sugar second only to water, and all fats received in the form of oils (safflower, canola, and corn), any pregnant or nursing mother would do far better with a simple multivitamin in addition to daily meals. The one thing this supplement is lacking? Food.

This new product is being pushed towards women for whom a balanced diet may not be easy - pregnant women battling morning sickness and new mothers who are tired, busy and looking for convenience. In regards to the former, a prenatal vitamin in addition to whatever food you can manage to keep down will be more than enough to care for you and your unborn child. If you can't keep anything down, why would Similac's product be any different? As for the latter, a reasonably balanced diet can be achieved from real foods without a lot of time or effort, despite what Similac would like you to think. Nuts, cheese, apples, bananas, trail mix, and more can all be grabbed quickly and effortlessly to give you the nutrition you need during those early sleep-deprived and busy days.

Questionable Tactics

This is not Similac's first use of questionable tactics when it comes to dealing with breastfeeding mothers. Then again, perhaps Similac can't be faulted for looking out for their bottom line through the development of brand loyalty and expanded target markets. It is, after all, basic marketing. The savvy consumer, however, should be aware of these goals and make their purchasing decisions with them in mind. Similac is playing on our fears (adequate nutrition) and our weaknesses (convenience). Pretending that they have our best interests at heart is simply insulting.

Conscious Choices

Many mothers choose to breastfeed their infants out of a sincere desire to give their children the best they can. If formula is not an adequate substitute for your baby, why is an adult formula an acceptable alternative for you?

Other mothers are unable to breastfeed, and for them formula is a lifesaving alternative for their children. Others choose to use formula for their child for any number of reasons. I am not judging a mother's choice. Not being in her shoes, not knowing what journey she is on or what led her to where she is now, I will support her decision to feed her child in the manner she believes to be best for the two of them.

What I will not support is a corporation's attempts to convince pregnant and breastfeeding mothers that "complete nutrition" comes packaged in a convenient bottle. It undermines trust in one's body and the consumption of real food before the baby is even born. It makes the leap to formula use that one step easier, one step more normative - which is precisely what they're hoping for.

Regardless of our choices, we must remain conscious of our purchasing power. Eat real foods. Get to know your local farmer and support him or her rather than giving your money to a faceless formula company. And if you choose to purchase Similac Mom, do so because it truly was your choice and not because they told you you needed to.