Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Another reason to hate infant car seats

First -- I want to celebrate. I realized I am officially over 100 posts. Hooray!

Ok, this might just be me. But I hate those infant bucket car seat things. I see people carrying their babies around in those stupid plastic tubs everywhere, jiggling the plastic when their babies cry in the store, with it propped on top of the grocery cart, and I want to scream: "Why is your baby so hideously repulsive to you that you can't stand to touch that sweet baby skin?"

But, yes, ok, that might just be me. If I'm horribly offending the 99.9% of American parents who think the plastic handle carrier things are the bomb, feel satisfied that you're part of the majority.

Also, I want to stipulate that I have no problem with infant car seats used in a car. Hooray for you for keeping your child safely buckled in. Now, when you stop the car, leave the seat attached to its base and move along, baby in arms.

We avoided an infant car seat altogether by going straight to a rear-facing convertible. I had scattered moments of panic just before labor that this little baby might be born too small for the height and weight minimums on the Roundabout and that Sam would have to rush out and buy an infant seat at Target before we could travel anywhere. Our midwife, after all, had solemnly predicted that this baby would be below average size, somewhere around 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

When Mikko weighed in at just under 12 pounds at birth, I remembered my fears about not filling out the convertible enough. Ha ha ha!

Crisis averted. Thanks, Chubster!

Anyhoo...with our thoughts of buying a Swedish seat that potentially could be used with a potential second child (I don't like to tempt fate's laughing in my face by making concrete plans), we would need an infant seat for #2. (The Roundabout will have expired, and the Swedish seat's too big for a newborn.) I would have to swallow my pride and that bit of throw up in the back of my throat and (gulp) buy a bucket. With one of those stupid handles. So I can carry my baby everywhere encased in plastic, with the little soft baby skull being nicely flattened out, the better to fit the seat's contours.

Whenever I tell people about my distaste for infant car seats, the people who disagree with me -- who are, indeed, the far-reaching majority of other parents in my culture -- tell me about the one salient feature of baby car seats that they cannot live without.

When the baby falls asleep in the car, they tell me, you can just pop the carseat out and carry it into the house, without waking said infant.

And, every once in awhile, I envied that ability. I have alternately woken up a sleeping Mikko (so sad to do) or, more often, spent hours in the parked car, turning on the heat or rolling down windows to keep him comfortable, reading books by flashlight or using my laptop until the battery ran out, waiting for my boy to wake up from another drive-induced nap.

But then I read this story: Study: Infants Sleeping in Car Seats Could Be At Risk. It points out that the head flexion in car seats that are outside the car can restrict breathing in young infants. I believe that this is the study referenced in the article. A Google Scholar search turned up numerous other articles dealing with head injuries due to falls and overturning of the plastic carriers, plagiocephaly from spending too long in the seats, and many recommendations that these infant seats be limited to their proper use inside of cars only. Apparently, bringing them in not only exposes children to the dangers of falling out of them, but it also places them at more awkwardly upright angles that can threaten their airways. Here's a horribly sad story of a baby who succumbed to the threat.

And this is all not even accounting for the strain on parents' shoulders and backs carrying the heavy monstrosities around, nor for the strain on the relationship between parent and baby. I wasn't joking when I said that the only advantage I'm ever told when I protest the bucket's ubiquity is that you can carry a sleeping baby in from the car. But, in my real-world observations, I've seen mostly awake babies carried around and set on the floor or the church pew or a table -- all those missed opportunities to snuggle close. Although, really, it would be fine to hold a sleeping child as well.

I'm content now that my seat has always had to stay in the car, sleeping baby or no. And if I do have to buy one of those *�@ buckets, I'll leave it strapped in -- the side benefit will be that no one will be able to see that I've given in and started using one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An open letter to car safety fans & manufacturers

I have a big baby. He is not of average weight, I agree.

But I want him to be just as safe as all those average babies out there can be.

Unfortunately, he's outgrown the limits of his car seat for rear facing — in fact, he outgrew them at 9 months, a full three months before even the most liberal recommendations for when to turn a baby forward facing, which in the US are 1 year old and 20 pounds. Twenty pounds he reached by 9 weeks, so that was out! At 16 months now, he's outgrown both the height and weight limits of all the rear-facing seats available in the US market.

I believe in the benefits of extended rear facing. Studies, crash statistics, and a commonsense understanding of physics show that it's much safer for a passenger to be secured in a rear-facing seat in almost any collision. Watch the clip below and see the forces at work on the baby's neck and spine:

Children between the ages of 1 and 2 are five times more likely to be injured forward facing than rear, according to Dr. Marilyn Bull at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis (where my uncle works -- here's a shout out to him!).

Her study recommends rear facing to the limits of the child seat, hopefully till at least 2 years old. The child's spine takes many years to develop and ossify into the adult configuration, and the biggest danger for babies in forward-facing seats is (gulp) internal decapitation due to a weak spinal system. This has nothing to do with neck strength and is all part of the gradual process of spinal bone growth; babies' relatively big heads for their bodies unfortunately exacerbate the dangers of having weak spines when strong forces act upon them -- say, the forces of a 30 mph collision.

How do I know so much about this issue? Because I care about parenting, and I learn about what I'm involved in. All this learning, however, has left me aggravated and apprehensive, because my baby can no longer safely sit rear facing using US-approved seats.

Most parents I know would not understand why I consider this a big deal. If you're one of them, I hope you'll take some time to consider the links above and realize that turning your child forward facing is not a milestone to look forward to but a demotion in safety. Cars are very dangerous, and they're especially dangerous for the vulnerable.

But the people I really want to talk to are those who are in complete agreement with me, who have sent out links to the very sites I've referenced in this article and showed their relatives and friends the YouTube clips of crash tests. I also want to talk to child safety restraint manufacturers -- Britax (thank you for the photos of adorable Swedish kids, btw), SafeGuard, Sunshine Kids, etc. -- you know who you are. We love your products, and we appreciate that you make high-quality and innovative seats. We know that some of you make seats that rear face up to much higher limits in other countries and have safety features that US seats lack. I'm not even asking that we be as progressive and intelligent as Sweden, where children rear face for approximately the first four years, and rear-facing weight limits are 55 pounds, and where they have incredibly low amounts of child injuries and fatalities from car accidents. (Well, that would be nice, but first things first. Compare the stats to take a gander at the shocking differences: nine children properly restrained died in car accidents in Sweden from 1992-June 1997, whereas about four children a day die in the United States due to car crashes. Obviously, that's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but believe me when I say we would do well to emulate the Swedes on car safety.)

Here are the only little things I want from you.

Car seat makers, please consider increasing the rear-facing height and weight limits on your child seats. I know there's not a market for them yet in this country. I understand that market forces affect how much you can do. But even a few pounds and a couple inches might mean the difference between my baby (I know, I know, it's all about me!) turning around now at 16 months when his spine is still severely undeveloped, and being able to stay more safely rear facing for up to another year or more. Make seats so that no mama ever has to even worry that her baby won't make it to 2 years old before hitting the rear-facing limit.

Car safety advocates, please continue to raise your voices so that the above can happen. Let the manufacturers know that you would be willing to keep your precious cargo facing the rear longer if US seats allowed it to happen. Write letters to the AAP and your political representatives urging them to consider passing more conservative guidelines for when a baby can be turned around to face the front. And let your neighbors, colleagues, parenting groups, and friends know about the benefits of extended rear facing. Oh, you're probably already doing that.

As for me, I'm faced with the dilemma: turn Mikko around now, top tether his seat (we had an anchor retrofitted in our 1997 car for free at a dealership), and hope for the best. Or import a pricey and illegal Swedish seat through the services of this helpful gentleman and hope the fuzz don't catch us.

Cheese it, Mikko! At least he'd be safer as we made our getaway.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jamie Lynn Spears breastfeeding brouhaha

Oh, why not? Another celebrity breastfeeding moment...

The father of the newest ill-fated Spears baby took pictures to a Wal-Mart to develop, and one showed baby Maddie being breastfed. Someone at the store presumably stole the pics and is now trying to peddle them, which would end up being child pornography:

"Because Jamie Lynn is a minor, selling the pics -- or buying them -- could constitute a violation of federal laws prohibiting child pornography. Peddling pictures of a minor's breast -- even if not taken for sexual purposes -- could land the seller and the buyer in federal prison if they are marketed across state lines for the purpose of being lurid."

I don't really care about all that. Whatever.

Jamie Lynn OKJust two comments:

First, yea that Maddie is being breastfed! She has at least something going for her.

Second, this stance from Jossip.com gave me pause:

"Spears' baby daddy Casey Aldridge took his digital camera chip into the superstore to get the pictures developed of Jamie Lynn breast-feeding their daughter Maddie, which is a totally normal thing to want pictures of, in order to show your daughter's future boyfriends when they come by the house. [...] Who wants pictures of leaky boobs?"

Note the disbelief that breastfeeding pictures would be acceptable or desirable. But I will tell you, from my site analytics, that my posts on breastfeeding photos get more than their share of hits due to keywords people are typing into Google.

Granted that these searchers might mostly be fetishists, as I mentioned before, I think that taking pictures of breastfeeding is as natural as breastfeeding itself. Well, not quite that natural, but I mean -- if it's something you're doing with your baby twelve times a day, and you're taking pictures of said baby all day long, why wouldn't you want to record such an integral part of your experience together?

That said, I will agree with I'mNotObsessed.com for suggesting that this incredibly wealthy family invest in a photo printer and avoid the big-box photo counters in the future, particularly when dropping off naked pictures of a minor. Even though I have no problems personally taking or having taken photos that showcase my breastfeeding, and I even have some tasteful ones posted on my personal site for family to view, I have never had those photos developed by other hands or let the files out of my keeping. Why tempt potential trouble?

OK, I lied -- third point: Why is Jamie Lynn's hair prematurely gray? Ha ha.

All right, I'll try to knock it off with the celeb watching. I wasn't looking for it, honest -- I'm trying to remember how I found it in the first place. Recent actual searches in my browser history: "Seventh-Day Adventists modesty," "Dominic Monaghan," "Inspector Frost," "Der Mond ist aufgegangen lyrics" -- where could I have clicked from?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Angelina Jolie nursing in public

Angelina WI'm trying not to be a worshiper in the celebrity cult, but it's fun to see famous people showing some NIP. Angelina Jolie posed for pictures her husband (that would be Brad Pitt) was taking, and one of her nursing a twin is going to be on the cover of W magazine. It's really a sweet picture.

I'll let La Leche League sum up how I feel about this:

"La Leche League International, the world's oldest breast-feeding support organization, applauds Jolie's apparent decision to be photographed nursing.

"'Breast-feeding in public reveals a whole lot less than what has been revealed on the red carpet. ... I think we do need more role models like Angelina Jolie willing to be photographed and say, "Hey look, it can be done, it oughta be done,"' said La Leche spokeswoman Jane Crouse."

I love it when people who have a lot of attention on them use that to further a good cause. Mama Angelina makes breastfeeding look completely normal, doesn't she? Not to mention serene, and not a little glamorous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update on postpartum visits from Aunt Flo

I know everyone wants to keep up to date with my menstrual cycle, particularly after my last post on The Great Sports Bra Quest of Aught-Eight.

After my frighteningly late period the cycle before last, I then turned in an early month -- instead of my 29-30-day average, I managed only 16. I thought I was having ovulation spotting for the first time in my life -- but then it just kept going for a week, full on. Huh.

So I'm revising what I said when my cycles returned at seven months postpartum. I think all the breastfeeding has been keeping me infertile. My guess is that I've been bleeding but not ovulating, or maybe ovulating but only erratically. Or maybe ovulating but not producing the hormones that would facilitate or sustain a pregnancy.

Either that, or I'm in perimenopause and/or my fertility is now seriously whacked.

So we'll go with the lactation-induced infertility theory.

I found great information about gradually returning fertility from Kathy Dettwyler's site:

"Fertility is not an 'either/or' sort of phenomenon. Post-partum, a woman does not [ovulate] for a while, even if she isn't breastfeeding. If she is breastfeeding frequently enough to keep her prolactin levels above her individual critical threshhold for fertility (and women vary in this threshhold) then her fertility is suppressed.

"The greatest level of suppression is not ovulating, but as your prolactin levels go up, your fertility will gradually return. First you will ovulate, but not have the proper hormone levels for fertilization; then you will ovulate and fertilization may occur, but you still may not have the proper hormone levels for implantation; finally, you may ovulate, be fertilized, and implant, but not have the proper hormone levels for continuing the pregnancy, so you have a very early miscarriage, probably along the lines of minutes or hours after implantation, so you wouldn't know you had been pregnant."

Here's another resource on the subject.

Fortunately, I don't need no stinkin' fertility, so I'll just wait and see what new crazy thing happens this next cycle. I'm on day 28...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sports bras for nursing women

That's my title. And my post is...where are they?

By trying on a gazillion nursing bras at a boutique shop, I finally determined my real size right now. For those of you playing along at home, it's 36I. Yes, I as in I can't believe how big my boobs are.

My old sports bras from days of yore (as in, pre-breastfeeding) are not cutting it. Or, that is to say, they cut too deeply. I'm not trying to be difficult -- I'm not looking for a sports bra with nursing flaps or anything so convenient. I just want one that's highly supportive without mashing me flat as a pancake (as if such a thing were possible at my chest size).

I thought I'd put it out there on the internet in case anyone has a wonderful suggestion. I've been ordering from biggerbras.com, and for everyday wear I have a few Anitas that I lurve.

To wit, this one and this one.

I wrote before about how I was making do with Target underwire nursing bras (in a 40DD) -- they were pretty, supportive, and mostly sorta fit -- but that was before Target discontinued them, at least around where I live, and I checked several Targets in hope. (Oh, look, I could get them online, though not in my favorite pink -- oh, well.) When my old faithfuls started to fall apart (noticeable because my girls started to droop), I checked into Anita, which I'd heard good things about. I shuddered at the price tags, but I didn't see much of an option any other way, and at least I've been mightily pleased with my new, über-expensive boulder holders.

Now, Anita, like pretty much all nursing-bra manufacturers, does not make underwire styles in 36I. No, for the biggest breasts, they hope that soft cup will suffice. Um...hello? So I'm making do with a 36H. I'm a little compressed, but it's workable. Do I wish they made a bra that's supportive in my actual size? Yes. But I will manage. Isn't it something like 80% of women who are wearing the wrong size, anyway? I'm just sticking with the ranks.

So, on to sports bradom...

I was starting ballet classes again, abandoned midway through pregnancy when my hips decided they'd had enough of pretty much everything, and that pliés were right out, and I tried on my old sports bras. Ow! And nursing Mikko before and after was a contortionist act that involved taking the whole strap down my arm and wrenching my breast out of its torture cell.

(My class is adult beginner ballet, before anyone wondered about the incongruity between ballet dancer and big bra size. Most actual ballerinas probably don't wear bras at all, but that's really not an option pour moi.)

I returned to biggerbras.com and read the reviews of the largest-size sports bras. There aren't many available, so it didn't take long.

There is, in fact, only one available in my actual size, a Goddess Comfort Zone 2000 (wow to the name), but I was put off by the front closure that one reviewer said popped open during softball practice. Eep! She recommended not wearing it for any sport in which you're leaping about, which rules out ballet.

So, I thought I'd do what I'd done for my everyday wear and make do with a smaller size, compensating decreased cup size with increased band width. But 36H gave me just two styles, and the additional style, a LaBreeza, didn't have rave reviews. Everyone was unhappy with the support, and that was the whole reason I needed a sports bra -- to keep my chest from hitting me in the chin during changements and jetés.

Then on to 38G, which was my mistake. I decided on another Goddess, the 5056 (no inspiring name this time), and waited patiently for it to ship out of backorder. When it finally arrived, it turned out it wouldn't even fasten in the back. I should have gone at least 40G. But it didn't matter, because I hated the style. I swear, it went up to my neck. My leotard, while tastefully cut, would show half my bra if I wore that.

Back went my Goddess, and now I have a credit at biggerbras but no confidence that I'll ever find a good sports bra: supportive without being constrictive, and at least mildly attractive.

So, that's my sports-bra opera. Can you hear me singing my sad aria about bouncing boobs and mangled mammaries?

For now I'm making do with my super-tight sports bras and assuming I'll stretch them out with use.

But any better ideas would be more than welcome. As would any petitioning of nursing-bra manufacturers to take pity on women with large chest sizes before breastfeeding and thereby huuuge chest sizes after. More options, please!