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Jul 28 2014

How My Daughter’s Frustrating Nursing Habits Changed My Perspective

By at 11:01 am

breastfeeding-comfort

My 5-month-old daughter has recently decided that she’ll only nurse in bed. The big bed, the one that she shares with her father and me at night. If you’d asked me a few months ago whether it was possible for a 5-month-old to make such decisions, I would have laughed. A few weeks into motherhood, I was the type of mother who brashly vacuumed around my sleeping baby. I’d declare that a child with particular preferences probably had parents who overindulged her.

But then the 4-month-sleep regression hit; my pudgy girl, once a champion sleeper who could drift off to dreams anywhere, began to succumb to a peculiar, shallower sleep. She woke every 90 minutes at night. She stirred when the cat groomed himself across the room. Once we napped in the kitchen, on the sofa, in the bathroom in her Rock’n’Play. Now desperate for daytime sleep, I set her down in our darkened bedroom, pulling the black-out curtains shut.

She slept better during the day, and so slept better at night. And yet soon, despite improved sleep, she no longer wanted to nurse anywhere and everywhere, either. At 4.5 months old, she was now awake, aware of the wonders of the world around her. The pattern on the table cloth. The computer where mommy’s hands flew over the keyboard. The mug of coffee perched on the counter. The light outside our kitchen window. I’d started to put her in the cradle hold and she’d thrash around, hungering for the activity of the world around her instead. If I could get her to latch, she’d eat happily. But getting there was a struggle. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 19 2012

Why I Stopped Calling Myself an Attachment Parent

By at 1:07 pm

According to Dr. Sears, the person who originally coined the term attachment parenting in his popular books about child rearing, “attachment parenting is a style of caring for your infant that brings out the best in the baby and the best in the parents.”

“Well, sign me up!” was my first thought when I read this eight years ago when my second daughter was just an itty-bitty thing. Who doesn’t want to bring out the best in their baby and themselves? There was no question! I had tried other parenting methods, but this one promised something far more important to me than a baby who can learn the alphabet by aged 2 or a baby who sleeps 10 straight hours a night. This method seemed to be promising me a baby who was not only happy, but who would have a life of healthy self-esteem and self-confidence–something I never had. I quickly recalled how painfully shy and awkward I was as a child, then I got online and ordered myself a sling. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 27 2011

The Nanny Wars

By at 11:50 am

"If I spent every second of my life wearing a newborn like an albatross, it would eventually be two of us who would be incontinent, drooling and crying." Photo Flickr/dontcallmeikke

I went to a breastfeeding group for new moms the other day. It was arguably a poor decision: after all, I’m an “old” rather than “new” mom, and I’m anything but a zealot when it comes to breastfeeding. I feel that people who attend such things are generally either first-time moms or people who are much more staunch advocates of breastfeeding than I am.

“What is most important more than anything else,” the lactation consultant told the small group, “is that you take care of YOU. If Mommy isn’t happy, no one is happy.”

Well, that was certainly an idea I could get behind. But when one mother voiced the apparently-controversial opinion that an ounce or two of formula here or there wasn’t going to hurt her baby, and even had the support of her pediatrician, the lactation consultant all but tsk-tsked.

“You know what you should do? You should WEAR your baby,” she told the mom. “Wear your baby–carry her around all the time, be with her all the time, nurse her all the time. That is what your baby needs.”

Um…what about the Mommy happy thing from a few minutes ago?

Because I know myself, and I know that if I spent every second of my life wearing a newborn like an albatross, it would eventually be two of us who would be incontinent, drooling and crying. Three, if we count the albatross.

So much of mothering these days is rooted in self-righteousness. “Well, I only fed my baby breastmilk.” “Well, I never let my baby watch television.” “Well, I always hold my child any time he cries.” The emphasis on the “I” in such sentences carries with it the implicit, if unstated, rebuke of “and if YOU don’t do this, you SUCK as a mother, and possibly as a person as well.”

When I read the Vogue profile of Sarah Jessica Parker quoting her as patting herself on the back that she didn’t have a live-in nanny, I thought, “Girlfriend? PLEASE.” [See Mayim Bialik's take on the same article here.]

“We don’t have any live-in help. We’re pretty hands-on parents. That’s something that’s important to both of us, and we don’t shirk it, because what’s the point in having a family if you’re not going to really participate in it, you know?” Parker said to her Vogue interviewer over breakfast in a West Village restaurant.

Now, I could be bitchy and point out that she could have had breakfast in her home if she wanted to always “really participate” in her family…but that would go completely against the point I want to make, which is that of COURSE she has help, because no woman who has her own career does it entirely on her own without help, whether from a live-in caregiver or a day care center or a relative or what have you. And none of that, by the way, means that the parent in question is in any way inadequate. Read the rest of this entry →

May 16 2011

I Shave My Armpits But I Use a Sling. Who Am I?

By at 1:38 pm

“Parenting” is a new-aged noun that every person who has the joy of procreating in the 21st century will redefine on a daily basis.  There are so many polarizing conversations centered around this topic it’s hard to believe a fully assimilated child will ever evolve from our efforts to become a contributing member of society. What with all the damage we do to them by bottle feeding, vaccinating, not vaccinating, breastfeeding too long, cosleeping/not cosleeping, starting solids too early, over scheduling them, oh and crushing their legs with a rear-facing car seat.  But Kveller blogger Carla was right in that there is no one way to parent because there are no two children exactly alike. I think that how we talk about “parenting” is the problem and not the actual motions we go through in the privacy of our own homes to love and raise our children to the best of our abilities.

I have been thinking a lot about how I relate to other parents and after reading this post, I could not agree more.  I never identified as granola, crunchy or alternative. I shave my pits and let my family consume produce from Wal-Mart (the horror!) but after my son was born there were certain things that just felt right for us. I breastfeed, we coslept, I make all my own babyfood and I wear him everywhere I go. Those things didn’t make me a better Mama, if anything they make me cheap and lazy.  I didn’t want to mess with the cost or hassle of bottles, I didn’t want to get out of bed to feed him, he was less fussy when he stayed close to my chest and I’m not going to shell out $1 per jar of pureed squash that I can blend up for a fraction of the price.

But my parenting strategies didn’t all of a sudden make me a hippie either. I’m still me, granted a sleep-deprived, overprotective version with a child strapped to my chest. But I’m not going to compost or deny the advances of modern medicine to go it alone with an acupuncturist and a deck of tarot cards anytime soon.

I realized that much of my “parenting” aligned with the Dr. Sears model of “attachment parenting” and while I do identify with this movement, I also feel  like I have to hide the fact that we don’t cloth diaper, the amber necklace I bought did jack for teething, and we no longer co sleep. Actually, after about six months my son wouldn’t sleep in bed with me for five minutes if I paid him in chocolate breastmilk popsicles. So, off to his crib he went to sleep soundly through the night and never look back. My baby played quietly in the exersaucer while I cooked for close to five months until he outgrew it and then we assembled the playyard (I shred the directions after reading that the contraption “is great for pets, too!”) My child happily plays independently in a confined area and I get dinner on the table. And while I believe our birth experience was exactly as it should have been, I’m not going to pipe up and brag about my induction, epidural, and episiotomy. I don’t want a medal for the way in which my son came into this world, having him here is evidence enough that it was perfect.

The SNL video clip of Tina Fey in a birthing class in the post is all kinds of hilarious and not just because of the birthing-69-position. It demonstrates that they way we parent and talk about parenting may not be as well-suited for another family as it is to our own. I like to think that because of my own trial-and-error parenting I am more accepting of how other people raise their children and I love to learn new tricks along the way. It took me a while to feel confident as a Mama, but I am only confident that I am doing right by my son–and I have no clue about other kids.

So here’s to inclusive conversations that lead to better mothers, unlikely friends, and the hope that we manage to screw our kids up as little as possible along the way.

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