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Nov 12 2014

The Surprising Benefit Breastfeeding Had for My Daughter with Autism

By at 9:58 am

How Breastfeeding Saved My Daughter With Autism's Life—And My Own

When I was 23 years old, I naturally birthed my first child, my sweet Chava Rachel. I gazed down at her in disbelief—this gorgeous little girl was mine. A perfectly round head covered in damp, dark locks, tiny fingernails almost translucent pink, as if she’d had a manicure in the womb.

As we struggled to latch those first few hours after birth, my lactation-consultant mother led me through skin-to-skin, attempts at biological nurturing, and the baby crawl. No luck. Eventually we called in for a hospital-grade pump. As my frustration mounted, my mother whispered furtively, “Let’s get out of here. Tell them you’re nursing just fine, and let’s go home.”

She and I agreed that a hospital was no place to learn to breastfeed a baby. It wasn’t until Chava’s second day of life that she finally latched on. At my mother’s suggestion, I got on all fours and lowered my breast into Chava’s mouth—success! It was painful for a few days, but with the visit of another lactation consultant we were able to get on the right path. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 27 2014

Ask a Sleep Coach: How Do I Wean My Child Off of Co-Sleeping?

By at 8:34 pm


Dear Batya,

My son is 28 months. My goal is to have him sleep in his own room, in his own lovely bed, to NOT wake up every two hours asking for milk, and to sleep through the night. I have literally been woken up every two hours for the last 28 months and I’m exhausted. 

Some background: I had a C-section that ruptured on the INSIDE (it was horrible) and was not diagnosed right away. As a result, I literally could not lie down and sleep in a bed and I was having a lot of trouble with my balance, so I slept in a recliner with the baby on my chest. I nursed on demand. At one month post-partum, my condition was finally recognized. At two months post-partum, I endured a long surgery to rebuild and fix my abdomen. When I came home from the hospital, I started to co-sleep (since I wasn’t that mobile). We put guardrails on the bed and removed pillows, etc. It was amazing. I was able to get a good night’s sleep, I was nursing on demand, baby was happy, etc.

My husband, however, feels that it has been two years and it’s time for Jacob to be in his own bed. I am really starting to wholeheartedly agree. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2014

Ricki Lake’s New Documentary Shows a Whole Lot of Boobs

By at 1:30 pm


Since becoming a mom, Ricki Lake has been cranking out feminist-y documentaries about birth and family planning like it’s nobody’s business.

In 2008, she partnered with director Abby Epstein to make a documentary about homebirth and midwivery called “The Business of Being Born,” followed up by a well-received book about birthing options titled “Your Best Birth.” Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 3 2014

New Study Confirms Breastfeeding Benefits Were Overstated

By at 10:18 am


Writing a blog post discussing the merits of breastfeeding is not unlike taking a steak in your hand and casually, slowly, trailing said steak along the bars of a lion’s cage. I’ve found this out the hard way on several occasions. Each time I’ve written about breastfeeding, I’ve been amazed at the tempest that ensues.

I’m a slow learner.

According to an Ohio State University study comparing siblings fed differently during infancy, breastfeeding might not be any more beneficial than bottle-feeding for 10 of 11 long-term health/well-being outcomes in kids aged 4-14. In fact, asthma was found to correspond more to breastfed than bottle-fed subjects. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 16 2014

Weaning Has Been the Hardest Thing Yet

By at 11:55 am


We’re done. We nursed for two years, three months, and five days, and now we are finished. Check that life milestone off the list. My first baby is a big girl now.

It’s been three weeks and my boobs still hurt. And so does my heart. I’m angry, sad, and a touch melodramatic. While I know it was a good time to do it, and I knew it would be hard, I didn’t think it would be this hard.

Charlotte is doing fine, and I am a basket case.

The timing was right. I went away for five days to sunny Southern California for a work conference, and Charlotte stayed home in Seattle with her dad. I’ve tried weaning by going away, unsuccessfully, two other times in the past year. This time around, I figured with no other upcoming solo travel opportunities on the horizon, I better just do it. We’ve been talking since she turned 2 that the milk in mommy’s booboos was running out because Charlotte was getting to be such a big girl and didn’t need it anymore. So, the morning before I headed off to the airport, we had our final morning nursing snuggle. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 10 2013

My 5-Year-Old Daughter is in Love with My Breasts

By at 11:57 am



I don’t mean she loves the idea of one day being a grown woman with big boobs who gets to wear pretty bras like her mama. I mean she’s completely and utterly head over heels in love with my breasts.

When she was 2 ½ she finally–after what felt like thousands of failed attempts and pink lollipop bribes and hours of pleading–quit nursing. If she had it her way, though, she’d still be breastfeeding every night until she goes off to college. (Law school, specifically. That girl can convince you a thousand different ways that dogs meow and cats bark–and you’ll believe her.)

But for the second half of her little life, she seems to be making up for her lack of nursing by grabbing my breasts whenever and wherever she gets the chance. We could be at the doctor or at a wedding–she really doesn’t care. She wants my boobs and she wants them now. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 12 2011

Other Women’s Babies Drink My Milk

By at 3:37 pm

Five baby bellies have been fed with my milk.

Before I was married, I visited a friend who had recently given birth to her first baby. She scared the hell out of me explained how difficult nursing was in the beginning and how she hand expressed colostrum onto a spoon and fed it to her hungry son with a dropper. A woman from her La Leche League group had even given her a bag of frozen breast milk, which she was keeping “in case of an emergency.” My level-headed, holistic friend who only ate organic vegetables was going to feed her baby milk from a STRANGER?! I told her to throw it away. The thought of her tiny baby consuming a random person’s bodily fluids nauseated me.

Fast forward four years. My son is 13 months old and breast milk is his main source of nutrition, not because of my lack of trying or because I am so self-indulgent that I insist on him only consuming my milk – my kid is just a little bit picky right now. We struggled with nursing in the beginning so we supplemented with pumped milk. Eventually he was taking enough from me that he no longer needed bottles, but I continued to pump in an effort build up a surplus for when I returned to work. At first I would pump 12-14 ounces a day in addition to nursing and now I am down to 6 ounces every few days that I cool and carefully transfer into sterile bags in my freezer.

I haven’t returned to work and he hasn’t consumed a single drop of my freezer stash – but other babies have.

The recent Washington Post article on milk sharing was forwarded to me this morning…by three of my friends. I guess word gets around when you have over  1,000 ounces of frozen breast milk. When our chest freezer (no pun intended) was overflowing with milk, I needed to make room for more. A friend of mine was more than willing to take some off of my hands; she hadn’t been successful with pumping and needed milk for when she was away from her baby. So I packed 400 ounces into a cooler and my milk made its way down the interstate. Another friend of mine was visiting from out of town with her infant and toddler. After two weeks of traveling her 2 year old was severely constipated. She was pumping for her baby and giving her toddler the extra but there just wasn’t enough milk for both of them.

Before dinner she asked if her daughter could have something to drink, “I have juice, whole milk, water and breast milk” I joked.  “Let’s see if she’ll drink the breast milk,” she answered.  Without a second thought, I poured my carefully collected liquid gold into a sippy cup and her sweet little constipated girl guzzled it down. And I didn’t think a thing of it when a friend from my La Leche League group recently had twins and needed a few ounces to supplement her freezer stash upon returning to work.

Four babies other than my son have consumed my breast milk. I am HIV negative, I  don’t smoke, consume caffeine or drink alcohol (that later due to more to lack of opportunity than anything else) and I eat a healthy diet because my body is feeding that same milk to my own child. Granted, the recipients of my milk were all friends who knew this about me, but if a stranger needed milk and I had extra to give, I would gladly hand it over.

I can’t tell you when milk sharing became okay in my mind. I can tell you that milk banks collecting donor milk only to turn around and charge a desperate mother $6 per ounce is the only part about it that makes me ill anymore.  I don’t know if I would take breast milk from a stranger, but I would definitely accept it from a friend. I agree that in today’s society there is a lot of pressure to breastfeed and for me personally, formula somehow symbolized failure. It would have saved me a lot of tears and therapy if it hadn’t. I think milk sharing is a very personal decision made by families who are just trying to do what they feel is right for their babies. It makes me happy to know that, so far, my milk has filled five little bellies, and my freezer finally closes again.

Want more on breastfeeding? Read about why Mayim Bialik nurses her toddler and why Jewish tradition views breastfeeding as both a burden and a blessing.

Feb 23 2011

Is This Extreme Parenting?

By at 2:17 pm

Get it? Mayim? Extreme sports? Baby?

My husband and my publicist say I’m not supposed to read what other people write about me. I guess they are right; it invariably makes me mad and sad.

However, I could not help but notice recently that several parenting blogs have referred to my style of raising my kids –whether they agree with me on some level or not– as “Extreme Parenting.” Now, when I see the word “Extreme” tagged on as a modifier, I instantly think of it involving doing the thing it modifies either on an icy cliff with crazy obstacles and a wacky set of bumper-stickers on a helmet, or with the added use of speed (meaning quickness or the drug; you choose). Think: Extreme Snowboarding or Extreme Dating.

In case you are new to the world of me and my supposedly “extreme” parenting, here are the relevant highlights. I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old and a 5-year-old. My husband and I are the only caregivers for our sons. I nurse my toddler on demand (including every two hours all night). I did not schedule or sleep-train or night wean either of them. I don’t use charts or stickers or time-outs. I don’t hit my children. I don’t use a babysitter. My kids don’t watch television and they’ve never seen a movie. I am not a permissive parent and I have a lot of rules, expectations, boundaries, and limits. I like gentle voices in the house, the answer to a whiny voice is “no,” we clean up our toys and clothes almost daily, and although I operate on no more than two hours of sleep at a stretch for almost six years, I do not consider myself a martyr who thinks I am better than you for the choices I make.

It’s just what works for us and the hundreds of thousands of families who parent this way. Just ask La Leche League, Holistic Moms Network, Attachment Parenting International, or any tired-looking sling-wearing mama or dada you see on the street.

I respect all parents and I know we all do the best we can with the support, resources, and education we have. So let’s learn a little bit from each other and chill out when we hear things that are unfamiliar to us. It’s okay. It’s a big world and until someone finds the one absolute way that all kids will turn out “perfect” (whatever that means), I am pretty sure it’s a free country to parent and live how we want to.

Parenting of any kind is exhausting, and the way we do things is a different kind of exhaustion. Imagine if you never put your kids in front of a television. You would never get anything done. Welcome to my world.

Here’s the deal. People have parented this way for almost all of history. And so have all primates. I am not going to throw around my doctorate as my reasons for the medical or psychological choices I make for my kids. Do gorilla mamas have Ph.Ds in Neuroscience? No. Do they know to sleep close to their babies, nurse them into toddlerhood, carry them everywhere, cradle them and cuddle them and kiss them and adore them whenever they want to and protect them from anyone trying to get in their way? Yes.

So, big deal that I believe (as is the medical fact) that fevers kill pathogens and I don’t administer Tylenol at the first sign of a fever. So, big deal that my kids are very “late” talkers and walkers and we decided (with our pediatrician) to not have them get therapy. I am not negligent for doing things you don’t agree with. I am simply listening to my intuition, doing research, and really enjoying the ride. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 15 2010

How’s This For Authentic, Carla?

By at 9:09 am

Carla, Carla, Carla.

I appreciate your compliments and I respect that you can like me even if you don’t agree with me. I see that you want more of me. Can do.

I want to address your issues one by one. I know that you don’t desire the list of the last time I cried in frustration at my inability to be a good mom (this past Sunday), the last time my bathroom truly smelled like none of the three males in the house have ever succeeded in having their urine hit the inside of the toilet bowl (yesterday), or the last time I wanted Fred to take his sweet cupid’s bow lips OFF OF MY BREAST because I am overstimulated and want to scream until I have no more voice (that would have been at 4:30 a.m. this morning). But would you be unsatisfied with hearing a whole list of these things? Probably not.

People who know me well would describe me as probably one of the most authentic people they know; I don’t believe in lying, I abhor gossip, I sacrifice (too much of) myself for others, and I am what children would call a goody-two-shoes, and kind adults would call a good soul.

I understand how I may come off as inauthentic. Part of it, I think, is my sort of meticulous and nerdball writing style (and keep in mind I have an editor!), and part of it is that I am in an unusual and sort of difficult position as “celebrity crunchy mama.” If I describe how hard things are in my life, believe you me, I will get so much crap about me having a pity party, about me wanting praise for being such a martyr, and I already get a lot of that as it is: “Why do all this if you’re so exhausted? Are you some kind of martyr!?” My favorite comment I saw recently was, “You get paid millions of dollars a week”–which I don’t!!!–“some of us have to really work! Stop complaining!” Ouch. I really am damned if I do, damned if I don’t here!

I have a strong desire to please everyone, and I thought about laying it all out there for Carla and other readers who might think that I was being inauthentic. But sometimes our struggles need to be private, especially when we are open to public critique; I don’t find this privacy secretive, but protective.

Those of you who saw me on “What Not To Wear” know that on days when I am not under the public eye, I typically wear milk-stained black t-shirts and an elastic waistband grey skirt with a 15 year old punk rock hoodie (with the grim reaper on the back). I am writing a book about our experience with attachment and holistic parenting for Simon & Schuster, but I guarantee they will not use “real” pictures of me; it’s not what the public is ready for. I try and present myself as authentically as I can even when I am “Mayim The Actress,” but I also have to be seen as competitive in my industry if I want to stay employed as an actress.

Mayim on the red carpet

The Mayim you see on the red carpet is in fact excited to be all dressed up, but also quite shy. I am not relaxed when getting lots of attention, standing up straight is something I forget to do on a minute by minute basis, and I miss out on a lot of social events in my industry because of our parenting preferences. I fear that I am seen as anti-social, but for now, my choice is to let that slide so that I can help my husband who often gets no break because I can’t give him one.

As for my general philosophy and parenting decisions, I have learned a lot about how to parent and how to constructively deal with frustrations through La Leche League International. More than just a breastfeeding organization, LLLI supports babywearing, bedsharing, and gentle discipline. This means that when I am struggling, lost, and frustrated, I call my LLLI leader, and I have a network of friends who I get support from. I also joined the Holistic Moms Network when my first son was born (I became their spokesperson a year ago), and this has given me even more friends and support to go to for problems. I used Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book to guide me through early parenting issues, both attachment parenting-related and not; and we have a progressive and creative pediatrician who we adore and who supports our family in its decisions, and this is something I know most parents do not have. He is very expensive, but that is something we budget for and can budget for; again, we are grateful.

That being said, parenting this way has never been easy for me. I have special nursing needs, and both of my children’s first months were spent in a tremendous amount of struggle with me in a lot of pain, doubt, and fear. I saw a photo of an attractive actress with her newborn in some celebrity magazine the other day, and I had a pang of sadness and regret: I could never have done those celebrity shoots with my babies on day 3, much less week 3 or even month 3. Not that I cared if I could be in some silly magazine or not; it was more the principle that I was so debilitated and struggling so much that hurt.  I became a lactation educator/counselor last year specifically so that I could help women like me who are in so much pain that they cannot make it to nursing stores for help.

The reason I choose not to get into the gory details about breastfeeding in general (and I guarantee you, if it looked like anyone was NOT supposed to nurse based on the first weeks and months, it was me) is because I do not want to put out there that breastfeeding is painful, leads to weeks of discomfort, and makes you not able to nurse outside of your home for weeks. Everyone’s baby’s mouth is different, everyone’s nipples are different, and everyone will learn for themselves about nursing. For some people it’s a cinch.

Nursing all night kicks my butt. I am constantly operating under not enough sleep; I am sleep-deprived all of the time. Many mornings I half-jokingly wonder if my kids will be in one piece when my husband gets up two hours after I crawl out of bed with them to tend to their various dietary and activity needs. Not using television increases the time I am with them, and I am constantly searching for activities that keep my older son busy so that I can tend to my little guy: snacks that are time-consuming to eat, collage-making (magazine, safe scissors and double sided tape), piano practice, and me reading to him while I nurse his brother are our best bets.

There are mornings when I can’t get up or won’t; my husband steps in maybe two or three times a month in these cases, and I sleep an extra half hour. I am grumpy on these days. When I get a migraine, I am even grumpier.  When Fred nurses every 2 hours and the 5 year old is screaming for a snaaaaack and I have a migraine, I am the grumpiest of all.

Nursing in the day kicks my butt. My clothing revolves around nursing and my whole schedule is based on nursing. I have wet stains down the front of my shirts most days (hence my army of black t-shirts). When I go out to publicity events, I can only wear a dress if I will be gone a short enough amount of time to not have to pump (or leak!). I get touched out, burnt out, and nursed out. But I also know that nursing connects me with my son after filming 12 hours (like today), it nourishes him, and on the nights after he is recovering from being so sick, I know that stroking his soft hair 4-7 times a night while nursing his teething pain, fear, and hunger away is a gift I will cherish forever.

Our kids were both sick last week and it was a cranky sickfest if ever there was one from the 5 year old, and our little guy cries as if his heart has shattered in two if he so much as finds a seed in his tangerine slice or can’t get a drawer to close correctly. I literally said to my husband that I was kind of glad to be leaving to go to work, and it hurt to say it, but I had reached my limit. I reach my limit a LOT. I’ve angrily “shushed” my kids. I’ve whispered through gritted teeth, “Just please GO TO SLEEP already!!!!” I have raised my voice and slammed doors and I have broken three laptops and two cell phones with my inappropriate… authentic expressions of frustration.

Mayim's before and aftera on What Not to Wear.

I am not proud of these moments, and I work hard to make amends for them, to understand the rage that sometimes bubbles up inside, and to actively find other ways to stop it before it explodes. I come from a very fiery house, and as a child, raised voices and slamming did happen. I don’t want my children to feel they are making me nuts, and I have taken two classes to help me with this. The first I took when my older son was weaned and I was pregnant with my second son, and it was a S.T.E.P. class (Systematic Tools for Effective Parenting) More recently, my husband watched both kids while I took a Quality Parenting seminar. This class significantly decreased my yelling and anger, and really upped my compassion for myself and my children.

I can’t impress upon you what it’s like for my dear patient husband to live with me. I am very sensitive, a little bit weepy, very hard on myself ­and quick to interfere with his parenting. I constantly feel I work “harder” with the boys than he does; and I remind him of it more than I would like to admit. I am also patient in my own way, I am a morning person, and I constantly find ways to reinvent myself even when I feel there is nothing left for me to reinvent.

I love my children, I love attachment parenting, and I love this life, even when it’s got me down. Because for me, there is no other way to be than authentic: authentic to what my instincts tell me, authentic to what the women I admire have done before me, and authentic to myself and to you, dear Carla.

I address a lot of my authentic self–topic by topic– in the book I wrote, specifically detailing the challenges of birth, nursing, time management, balancing relationships, and everything in between, so you’ll have to stay tuned for that in the spring of 2012. For now, I will leave you with this: When Fred was a newborn and Miles was 3, I had just brought our cat home from the vet with a cone on his head from a major surgery. As we walked in the door, the cat’s stitches tore open, blood started spurting, Fred needed to nurse and started shrieking as only a newborn can, Miles was flipped out and started crying from the blood and Fred’s screaming, and I started to cry, too. We were all of us crying: the newborn, the toddler, the Mama, and even the cat.

And oh yeah: I proudly wear Hello Kitty footed pajamas to sleep in the winter. Authentic enough?


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