Thursday, December 31, 2009

Carnival of Natural Parenting

mother and daughter spinning in the sunPlease join us for a Carnival of Natural Parenting on the second Tuesday of each month. Your co-hosts are Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Lauren at Hobo Mama.

Submission Details

If you've never participated in a blog carnival, a carnival is an opportunity to read and write posts on a specific theme once a month from a variety of bloggers. Besides a monthly theme, a carnival has an overarching perspective, in our case, natural parenting. Monthly themes are listed below and will be kept updated.

The submission deadline is the first Tuesday of every month, and the carnival posts on the second Tuesday. To submit an article for consideration, please email your submission to both Dionna (codenamemama @ and Lauren (mail @ no later than 11:59p.m. PST on the first Tuesday of each month.

Please write a new, previously unpublished post for the carnival. We will email you with instructions on posting before each carnival day. Please do not post your article until the carnival date.

We reserve the right to accept submissions based on relevance to the topic and quality of writing. We also reserve the right to edit submissions for clarity (i.e., spelling and grammatical mistakes), but we will never edit the substance or meaning of your article. Articles requiring excessive editing will be returned and may be accepted at a later date. Please allow the co-hosts sufficient time to confer about the submission over email before expecting a personal response.

What is not acceptable: excessive profanity (there is a time and a place, but it’s not this carnival), poor spelling and grammar, personal attacks, off-topic articles, and articles that advocate for methods of parenting or family living that are directly contrary to natural parenting principles (e.g., we will not host an article on the benefits of spanking or “crying it out”).

Monthly Carnival Themes

January 2010: Parenting resolutions: How do you want to parent differently (or the same!) in the New Year? Submission deadline: January 5. Carnival posting: January 12.
February 2010: Love and partners: How has a co-parent supported your dedication to natural parenting — or not? Submission deadline: February 2. Carnival posting: February 9.
March 2010: Vintage green: What sorts of "green" things did you do as a kid (even if you didn't know at the time they were eco-friendly) that you now do with your own kids? Submission deadline: March 2. Carnival posting: March 9.
April 2010: Parenting advice: We all need a little input. Write a Dear Abby-like letter asking your readers for help with a current parenting issue. Submission deadline: April 6. Carnival posting: April 13.
May 2010: Role model: It can be daunting to parent against the mainstream, but sometimes people take notice in a positive way. How has your natural parenting inspired someone else? Submission deadline: May 4. Carnival posting: May 11.

Bookmark this page and stay tuned for future themes. Subscribe to our RSS feeds or follow on Twitter to stay updated on any carnival announcements: Hobo Mama's feed and Code Name: Mama's feed, @CodeNameMama on Twitter and @Hobo_Mama on Twitter. Also, check out our Facebook page, and become a fan.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaIf you are a participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

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What is Natural Parenting?

“Natural parenting” is based on a desire to live and parent responsively and consciously. While no two families who practice natural parenting may define it the same way, there are several principles that are widely agreed to be part of this lifestyle. These are ideals that natural parents tend to hold — even if we don't always live up to all of them, we keep them in mind as goals.

1) Attachment/Responsive Parenting: Attachment parents prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting; practice exclusive and full-term breastfeeding if possible, and feed with love and respect regardless of whether it is at the breast, with a bottle, or beyond; respond with sensitivity; use nurturing touch (including babywearing and skin-to-skin contact); ensure safe sleep, physically and emotionally (including bed sharing and co-sleeping, responsive nighttime parenting, and no “crying it out”); provide consistent and loving care; practice positive discipline (with no physical punishment); and strive for balance in personal and family life.

2) Ecological Responsibility and Love of Nature: Families strive to reduce their ecological footprint by living consciously and making Earth-friendly choices, such as by choosing organic when possible, using cloth diapers or practicing elimination communication, supporting local economies, and so forth. Parents may choose to find toys and clothing made of natural fibers and materials. Families spend quality time outside enjoying the natural world.

3) Holistic Health Practices: Parents research medical choices and make educated decisions regarding all health care (vaccinations, medical interventions, medications, etc.). Many families choose to use alternative or natural healthcare such as herbal remedies, chiropractic care, natural childbirth, and so on.

4) Natural Learning: Families spend time together, and children learn through everyday activities. Parents try to facilitate learning without “teaching,” to help children ask questions that develop thinking, to develop consideration for others without shaming or training, to give choices while guiding the children, to listen to instinctual cues, to honor emotions and desires, to allow development to take place in its own time, and to engender cooperation and harmony without manipulation. This might include the decision to pursue uncommon methods of education, such as alternative classrooms, home schooling, or unschooling.

Above all, natural parenting is making the choice to develop a deep bond with your children and family based on mutual respect. An attached child grows into a mature and interdependent individual who understands how to develop healthy, secure relationships with others.

For more information on natural parenting, please visit the following resources:
Please email Lauren (mail @ or Dionna (codenamemama @ if you have any questions or suggestions about the Carnival of Natural Parenting.
Photo courtesy valerio lo bello on stock.xchng

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Wooden dyad

limitedlighttest -- Marco Veringa
via Marco Veringa on flickr (cc)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taking stock of my visitors

Christmas world globe ornamentIn a post of interest only to me (I get points for honesty, right?), I thought I'd look back at the previous year by scouring Google Analytics for which places visited meand which didn't. (I'm looking at you, Botswana.)

I was inspired by Swistle's post titled "Hi, Wyoming! You Are So Great!," in which she attempts to woo visitors her way. I will not stoop to such tactics (because I am not that clever and don't want to do the research). I will only applaud those who have visited in the past, in hopes they will come back again, and chide those who rejected my thoughtful invitation for global interaction.

Most interesting countries that have visited in the past year:
Algeria has sent 3 ambassadors my way, nearby Morocco 1, and Tunisia a whopping 6.
Cote d'Ivoire sent 1 visitor, even though none of its neighbors cared to join the fun.
Perhaps inspired by the 44 South Africa visits, Mozambique sent a lone emissary to see what was going on. The same thing happened with Egypt's 23 visits, and neighboring Sudan popping in for a single look and then backing out, apparently not sure what Egypt was seeing in me.
Paraguay and Bolivia rustled up only 1 each, even though South America is otherwise well enough represented.
India's one of my biggest fans (5th most popular visitor), but it hasn't inspired Myanmar, even though I've mentioned Burma in blog posts before. (Sigh, why do I even bother?)
South Korea has been awesome, but North Korea must suspect my political leanings.
And thank you, Kazhakstan, but why no Mongolia?
Greenland has left me in the cold, though Iceland's faithful.

Without further ado, a big shout-out to my most loyal followers: United States (We're #1! Woo-hoo!), Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Germany, Poland (I'll admit I'm a little surprised there), Romania, and...the Philippines! Thank you all for coming!

To get a little more detailed, I would like to zero in on some of these here United StatesCalifornia and Washington are winning, you guys, with New York and Texas close behind. I suppose that all makes sense, given the state sizes. Oregon, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Georgia all have respectable showings. Which leads me to wonder what's going on with Wyoming and North Dakota. You're going to have to step it up a little next year. Even Rhode Island beat you guys out. (P.S. I'm too lazy to look up relative populations so am going solely on size of the state on my map. I think that's fair. Just because Swistle had the exact same problem doesn't mean there's any population density at play here.)

I can't get Canada to show me provinces, but all I can say is that all the visits are along the southern border, except for one lone visit from Whitehorse. I guess that makes sense. Maybe it's all expatriates, and here I was thinking I was internationally known.

For the UK, I'll confirm the unsurprising suspicion that London sent the most visitors my way. What might be more surprising is the also-rans: Thank you to Manchester, Bristol, Glasgow, and Connahs Quay.

Australia: Sydney won, but Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide were right up there, too. I was hoping there might be someone on super-powerful wireless in the Outback, but it was not to be. Maybe next year.

India: Delhi wins, but my friends in Chennai, Chandigarh, Pune, Mumbai, and Hyderbad were close behind. I appreciate it, guys.

Germany: My old hometown of Berlin for the win! Let me perform my old swim team chant for your amusement: B! B! B-E-R [clap, clap, clap-clap-clap], L! L! L-I-N [clap, clap, clap-clap-clap], B-E-R [clap-clap-clap], L-I-N [clap-clap-clap], Beeeeerrrrrr-LIN! We were the Bearacudas. Get it? Oh, the swim team humor. Despite my loyalties, vielen Dank, München, Köln, Mannheim, Frankfurt am Main, Nürnberg, und Hannover.

Sorry if I've disappointed Poland, Romania, and the Philippines for stopping there. I'm ever so grateful you all came, but I'm being bodily attacked by a two-year-old who thinks that poring over my annual data is a waste of time when there are MegaBloks car washes to be built.

Thank you to all my wonderful visitors this past year! I've enjoyed getting to know so many of you, and I hope to interact even more in the coming year — and who knows where you'll all come from in 2010! (Come on, Niger and Belize, I don't bite!)

Photo courtesy Christian Ferrari on stock.xchng

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve to all!

Correggio &#8212; Holy Night

I want to do a little Christmas Eve post, and then (gasp) take tomorrow off from all things bloggy. So I will wish you all a very merry Christmas (if you rock that sort of holiday) and catch you on the other side, once we open all our loot.

     • We have a lot of loot. Every year my mom says something like, "Now, you know, the economy...and I'm retired...and bills...smaller Christmas,...and blah, blah, blah...," and every year I look at what she sends and think, Lady, do you know the meaning of the word downsizing? But, hey, that's cool, because if she and Sam's mom got Mikko way too much stuff, it will just be incentive for us to bundle some of his old toys off to the consignment shop, the better to sock away credit for when we need to buy him some clothes once more, if ever.

     • My child has been in the same size clothing (4T, if you have hand-me-downs to offer) for the past year and a half at least. We used to have to roll up the pants cuffs and pray the elastic around his diapered waist would hold. Now the pants legs hang all the way down, and we had an incident where we picked him up from preschool to find that the resourceful teacher had masking taped an improvised belt for him to keep him from accidentally dropping trou. Far from the disposable clothing of his newborn days, where we were lucky if he wore an outfit once before he outgrew it, we are now facing the dilemma usually known only to adults: clothes wearing out before they're outgrown. Bizarre.

     • Thinking of Mary and the baby in swaddling clothes, I was reminiscing how Mikko always hated being swaddled as a baby. It was the only S from The Happiest Baby on the Block that we couldn't practice. Even when he was born, the nurses wrapped him in double layers of heated blankets, and we called him a baby burrito, but within minutes he would thrash his way out, and then the nurses would yell at us the next time they came in for not keeping him cozy. As if being on my chest wasn't cozy, silly nurses! And as if anyone wants to argue with a very strong, very angry 12-pound baby!
     And then, the other day, Mikko pulls over his little fleece blanket and indicates that he wants it to go over his feet, and his hands, and I ask if he wants to be a burrito, and this catches his fancy. "'rrito!" he agrees. So I practice my slick swaddling moves, and he is encased and happy, and I settle him on my lap to nurse, for once not having one of his stray little paws reaching up to slyly tweak the other nipple.
     Of course, the blanket is too small to swaddle him properly. This was so even when he was a newborn! Even the special swaddling-size blanket we got as a hospital gift was too small, and when I tried to swaddle him with it at three months old, I had to crisscross him with ribbon like a gift to get it to stay closed. So, the other day, he brings me a sheet. A king-size sheet. Let me tell you, my friends, he was swaddled but good, and he loved it, just a couple years late.

     • Two Christmas Eves ago, I was musing on the fact that even a holy baby would have been a noisy baby. This year, given that we have a two-year-old, I've been thinking of the flight from Bethlehem to Egypt (don't read any further in that link than those verses if you like babies, by the way). I am travel-averse when it comes to hoofing it with toddlers. I can't imagine being a refugee fleeing for my life...with a two-year-old. My thoughts are with any families right now who are just trying to make it somewhere safe.

     • If you didn't see Mama Knows Breast's "Twas the Breastfeeder's Nighttime" poem from the holiday Carnival of Breastfeeding, you really should.

     • Download 25 free Christmas songs at Amazon right now. It's only 24 today, but it will be 25 tomorrow. See how that works? If you haven't downloaded mp3s from Amazon before, you have to download a little software program first to handle them, but it's super easy from then on out. For me on a Mac, it automatically ports them into iTunes.
      I have found some excellent new Christmas albums this year, which I will share with you. Yes, I will be using some Amazon Associates links, because, hey, why not, and also — Amazon and Blogger just came out with this cool new integrated widget that makes things so easy now to search and link. So easy.
Tidings     All right, from my friend Rachel, I recommend Tidings, by Allison Crowe, only because it is spectacularly awesome. You can listen to the whole thing at that link to Allison's website. And you will. Multiple times. Because it is so incredibly astonishingly magnificent. Turn it up. Enjoy.
     Over the Rhine Snow Angelsis a group I've loved for years for being thoughtful and soulful and haunting and lovely. Try either of these Christmas albums: Snow Angels The Darkest Night of the Yearor The Darkest Night of the Year.
     Mindy Smith is one of those singers where I've heard a couple My Holidaysongs that I loved but I never really went beyond to seek out anything else. When I was creating a Pandora holiday station, they filtered in some of her Christmas songs from My Holiday. I gave them all a thumbs-up.
Holiday Songs And Lullabies     Shawn Colvin's Holiday Songs And Lullabies is a nice quirky collection I came across when I was looking for children's music after my beloved niece was born (seven and a half years ago — really?!). I still have these songs in rotation, year-round, and I do indeed use them as lullabies to sing Mikko to sleep. (Ah, if only it were that easy!)
     Sophie (@Soapsuds), Light of the Stablea Twitter buddy, pointed me toward Emmylou Harris's Light of the Stable. I might have to cough up the dough (now, why are those two words pronounced so differently?) to buy this myself, because, as is the case with almost all the above albums, the library does not currently carry them. Le sigh and le cuts de budget. (P.S. You might not be able to tell, but I don't speak French.)
X5 Free Classical Sampler - Classical Christmas     And, from @Whozat, of The Adventures of Shrike and Whozat fame, I pass on some free Christmas albums on Amazon: Sampler Claus and X5 Free Classical Sampler — Classical Christmas.
     There are so many more, but I will leave you with those and ask for your recommendations in the comments. I'm always on the lookout for new Christmas music, so lay it on me! I don't care if it's months after Christmas. I will tuck it away for the next year. And don't think I listen only to the style represented here, which is mostly kind of folk-mellow. I can handle variety.

     • If you haven't checked out my Wordless Wednesday collection of cute and funny holiday babies, enjoy. Notice that the mother of the second baby linked to me on Motherhood Moment because she's (rightly) proud of her adorable new bundle, and here I am linking back again. How's that for synergy3?

     • That was fun. Let's do it again. Arwyn at Raising My Boychick just wrote about relief that her period keeps on a-coming every month and her similar ambivalence toward whether or not to reproduce again, or when. And a couple days ago I checked Fertility Friend (which I still use as a tracking device, even though I'm suppressing my fertile side) and found: Mine is due Christmas Day! As I commented on Raising My Boychick, it will be a festive red indeed.

     • Via The World Is Too Much With Us — "Holy Crap":
Joseph Changes Jesus cartoon
by nakedpastor

     • I want to thank all my guest bloggers this year. If you have time during the holiday festivites (while you're hiding from relatives in the bedroom, perhaps? Does anyone else do this? Just me?), feel free to browse through the guest posts, now conveniently located within a category tag, and comment on their posts for Hobo Mama or click over to their sites to browse and interact. More guest posts are still to come in the new year, and feel free at anytime to offer your services or to ask me to volunteer. I think this is fun!

Happy, happy Christmas to all my dear readers and your sweet families! I plan to open the mountain of presents; make my mom's famous hot dip and eat half the pan immediately; enjoy Mikko's murmurs of glee at so very much loot, which I believe he will comprehend for the first time this year; stay in my jammies for a long, long while (as is the case every day, let it be noted); and play a heck of a lot of Sims 2. Because it's good to have plans. May you all have a similarly restful, meaningful, magical day tomorrow.

Merry Christmas.

Holy Night by Correggio is a lovely painting.
I wonder, by contrast, if this painter
had ever seen a human baby or
this painter a woman's breast (via God Spam).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Holiday babies

When I was looking for a picture for my holiday Carnival of Breastfeeding post, I came across a bunch of good runners-up. For a little early Christmas present, here they are!

Baby Santa
"Baby Santa," from kkbutterfly01 on flickr (cc)

Best gift &#8212; newborn girl under Christmas tree
"Best gift," from NVJ on flickr and (cc)

Baby's first Christmas
"Baby's First Christmas," from bryanminear on flickr and (cc)

aunt megan discusses breastfeeding - _MG_7682 -- sean dreilinger
I used this before but didn't notice it was Christmassy until I looked closely at the stockings. It's titled "aunt megan discusses breastfeeding," which makes me happy. From sean dreilinger on flickr and (cc), who linked back to me. I don't know why it always surprises me that people I link to find me, but that also makes me happy, especially since I love sean dreilinger's photo stream in general.

Andrea Solario &#8212; The Virgin With the Green Cushion
I had to include a great Mary-breastfeeding-Jesus picture. The Virgin With the Green Cushion, by Andrea Solario. See Breastfeeding 1-2-3 for a joke.

And to make you laugh some more...

Boy suckling on fake breasts
A 10-month-old who knows even what fake breasts are for. The caption: "I swear, he did that without us coming up with the idea. However, after he did it we spent a lot of time trying to convince him to do it again." From Scrunchleface on flickr (cc)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lying-in: Rest, recovery, and bonding

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Jessica from This is Worthwhile. She builds a strong case for the age-old but currently neglected practice of allowing mothers an established period of rest and recuperation after giving birth.

Guest post by Jessica from This is Worthwhile

A typical lunch in our house in the first few days.

In September of 2006 I was minding my own business checking out at Whole Foods. I looked up and saw Mothering Magazine. At the time I had two best friends 1200 miles away both expecting babies in 2007, so I grabbed two copies and went home, never having heard of the magazine before, and not even a whisper of my own pregnancy in my ears for months to come.

I started flipping through the pages and was overwhelmed by the sense of community I found there. Up until that moment, my idea of pregnancy, birth, and child-rearing was a foggy ideal based on my mother's methods (no spanking, lots of nursing, lots of educating yourself), not so unlike what I found in those pages. But what really struck me was an article about lying-in, a concept that really struck a chord with my cultural anthropological background and with my feminist beliefs, written by Katherine Gyles, called "At Rest in the Arms of the Mother."

What Is Lying-In?
Lying-in is loosely defined as a period of rest postpartum by the mother and babe anywhere between 1 week to 3 weeks and even more if feasible by the family. The mother is to be waited on and to remain on her back as much as possible to accomplish a number of physical and emotional goals. Physically, it allows her organs to reposition themselves and generally affords her more rest. Emotionally, it allows her to focus all her attention on the new infant at her breast, to bond, and to set the tone for the rest of the family to follow suit.

It is also called confinement or doing the month.

It is a time of quiet, reflection, and calibration. There is to be no fussing by the new mother over dishes, chores, or bills. She is to rest. Period.

Why Rest and Lying Down Is Critical
The uterus needs to shrink back to regular size and get back in position, there is lots of bleeding (I bled for 6 weeks), the perineum will need extra special attention as it recovers from the brutal stretching and pressure it endured (and any possible tearing), and women's legs and feet may become swollen in the couple of days after birth. Being off your feet will release any pressure felt in your bottom, give your guts time to reposition, and allow blood to flow freely. These physical changes are critical to our health and shouldn't be brushed aside for daily chores or lunches with well-wishers.

Culturally Speaking
I'm sure some of you are thinking, "There is no way in hell I could ever pull this off," and I understand that. That's the Western paradigm talking, the go-go-go, must do-do-do because I'm responsible for everything and I like it just so.

Lying-in requires that we let it all go and truly rely on our partners to pick up the slack. The idea to slow down and listen to our bodies is such a distant ideology from the nuclear family model that it's no wonder women struggle back to their routines whether ready or not. When everyone is relying on you to perform, it's difficult to resist the expectations and it's difficult to think of it in terms other than "I'm letting them down." But a woman who takes the time for lying-in isn't letting anyone down, she is being there for herself, her babe, and her family. Just as we should all take special care to do things we love as an individual in order to remain healthy and happy as parents, same goes for our physical health during the postpartum time.

The whole point of lying-in is to honor the incredible changes your body and mind have just gone through. Giving birth is not status quo: it is sincerely one of the most profound physical and emotional experiences a human body can experience and we should be careful to understand it and give it time to recede naturally and healthily.

Other cultures have been doing a lying-in period for generations; Taiwan, India, China, and Malaysia to name a few, get to experience a period of rest and rejuvenation for up to 6 weeks. Whole families or communities pull together to allow mother and child time to recuperate, rituals are performed, and the mother is generally allowed to re-enter her old life at a more leisurely pace.

How to Have Your Own Lying-In Period
Set limits with family and friends
Before my son was born my husband and I told everyone we wouldn't have visitors for at least 2 weeks. Our goal was to do what was outlined in the Mothering article I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Five days in the bed, five days on the bed, and five days around the bed.

What this looked like for us was five days of my husband making all my meals and doing all the laundry. He fielded the phone and the door. My mother came over, but only when we felt up to it. No friends visited, though I know they were eager to meet our newest edition.

The second five days I was upright, on the computer, reading, and talking with my husband.

The last five days I was walking around the house and by then I felt emotionally ready to see friends who had set up a round-robin dinner delivery for us.

Those fifteen days were some of the most profound of my life. I felt closer to my husband and better able to deal with the raw, raging emotions I was feeling due to hormones and the intensity of my new motherhood.

Include your older children
If you have older children there are ways to enfold them in the process as well. Toddlers can have special new-baby boxes of toys and activities waiting for them, they can spend more time with trusted adults away from mommy, or they can even participate in the quiet bonding experience if they're old enough by holding the baby, helping to clean her, or just touching her.

Play games from your bed and design a little "big brother/big sister" fort in the room complete with favorite or new videos and books so she can be near the new family, but not disruptive. Set boundaries prior to the new baby's arrival, practice being quiet in mommy's room, and then rely on your partner to run interference if need be.

And remember to relax and restart if you feel that things are getting out of control. Despite what anyone might think, there really IS a reset button on any given day.

Arrange for help and don't turn it down when offered
As I mentioned before, my friends organized dinner deliveries for us. That meant we had leftovers the following day and didn't have to think about dinner that night. It was an enormous relief. We also stocked up on frozen dinners and plenty of healthy snacks prior to my son's birth.

Your friends and family want to help and will most likely be happy to take direction and be given a responsibility. Your best friend can be in charge of laundry, your sister your grocery shopping and errands, your mother can return phone calls. It definitely takes a village, after all.

If you aren't near family and friends, or are without a partner
I don't think it's impossible to have a meaningful and recuperative time with a new family addition, but it's definitely a little trickier.

If you are isolated from friends and family, but have a partner, enlist him or her for meals and ask that phone messages be shared at a certain time or designated day after birth. Set up a diaper changing station within arm's reach of the bed so you don't have to get up to clean up baby. Aim for 5 days of this kind of care and renegotiate with your partner for the next 4 or 5 days, then again for the last 5 as you feel more energetic.

If you have no partner, but friends and/or family nearby, set up round-robin dinners and assign "chores" prior to baby's birth. Keep the diaper changing station close and plan for 5 days of bed rest, then little house trips for the next 5 days, and small chores, like making lunch, the last 5 days.

In either case, older children can still participate. Have new toys, videos, a fort, a special book, etc. on hand. These things will help engage big brother or big sister in the process and keep him or her safely occupied while sharing your space. Rely as heavily as you need to on kind-hearted babysitters.

Pre-planning is most important in this kind of situation. You will have to act as chief of your small village and get everything squared away before the birth.

Switch your brain off
Really try to remember that you are still just a human woman with physical needs (you are not a woman of steel) and that you must relax for at least a week or so. It's not too much to ask of yourself or your loved ones. Enjoy this time, for it's magical and won't be repeated in exactly the same way even if you have multiple births in your lifetime.

It's a Good Thing
The benefits are many and hard to quantify. Mainly, the mother gets the chance to recoup, the baby gets the chance to bond with his mother, and the new family gets to try out its sea legs in a cocoon of support and love. Physically, the mother's body is allowed to rebuild, and emotionally, she is given the time and space to unfold as a new person. She might even be at less risk of postpartum depression as this study discovered. Allow time to slow down for just a little while and watch all the pieces fall into place. Think only about yourself, your baby, and your family. There will be a lifetime of responsibility and things to do waiting for you at the end of this reprieve; enjoy the more gentle pace while you can and you might come out of it more centered, happier, and more ready for what lies ahead.

So, good luck and have fun! I wish everyone a happy, loving, safe, and magical postpartum experience such as my own.

:: This post is dedicated to a newly minted mother and her sweet-cheeked son: my little sister, Gabrielle, and nephew, Atticus.

:: :: Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. Please talk to your doctor and/or midwife if you have any questions regarding lying-in and its benefits or any perceived risks.

This Is Worthwhile logoJessica is a 34-year-old SAHM with a master's degree in counseling. She is passionate about cooking, imbibing, loving, playing, horses, and her family, and looks forward to leaving Texas for her home state of California where she can be as fruity and nutty as her heart desires. Baby number two is also on her mind, but not in her belly. Read more of Jessica's writing at This is Worthwhile.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breastfeeding and the holidays: How to take care of yourself

Welcome to the December Carnival of Breastfeeding: Taking care of yourself during the holidays

We're bringing together tips and stories on how nursing mothers can make sure they don't get rundown while they're caring for little ones and celebrating all the usual hubbub. Be sure to check out the links at the end for the other participants' excellent posts! I'll be adding more throughout the day Dec. 21.


I'm going to assume, for the sake of argument, that it's mothers of younger nurslings who need the permission and suggestion to slow down and take care of themselves. I've been breastfeeding my son for two and a half years now, and it's not breastfeeding that exhausts me anymore — it's the two-and-a-half-year-old part! Nursing, in fact, is a calming time in our day, a chance to sit and reconnect and have his mouth too full to chatter for a minute or two.

But I've been through two Christmases with a younger nursling, his first at six months, and his second at 18 months, so I'll speak more to my experiences those first two years. There's what worked for me, but then there are the choices you will make, and it's totally possible and probable that you will have a different set of criteria and priorities when it comes to holiday celebrations. So take my advice as just a series of gentle suggestions. Sometimes people need permission to let go of the pressures of the holidays and of visits to distant relatives, and if that's you, I want to grant it! It's your holiday celebration, too, so try to slow down and enjoy it.

Cut down on travel, or plan ahead

We traveled by plane with Mikko when he was four months old, and then again when he was seven months old. After those two experiences, we swore off plane trips for the next several years at least. We then, warily, tried a road trip when he was 20 months old...which made us rethink future road trips.

I'm not saying you'll have a bad experience if you travel somewhere with kids. I'm just saying you might. We did. That second flight we took was for Mikko to meet his great-grandfather before he died, so it wasn't really optional, but that first Christmas we had decided: No way are we flying out East. It wasn't just the holidays, though. We decided to put a general moratorium on flying. If our families wanted to see us (and Mikko — mainly Mikko), they could come out West. And so they have. For years before we had Mikko, Sam and I schlepped our sweet twosome out their way. We figure we're due now for a few reciprocal visits.

So that's my first advice, if you can swing it and if you want to. Put your foot down, say you're staying put, and enjoy a quiet holiday season with just your immediate family, or with any relatives who decide to come out your way. Now that I've said that, I'm realizing that housing and feeding visiting relatives might not be any quieter, so maybe have them come at a different time!

But, if you really want to travel and it would make you sad to stay home alone, then I would suggest really preparing in advance for the trip.

If it's a plane trip, breastfeeding will actually help you out immensely (as long as you can avoid getting kicked off the plane — eep!). You can nurse during takeoff and landing to help regulate your little one's ear pressure, and it can also help calm a cranky kidlet. Read PhD in Parenting's post on "Tips for Breastfeeding on a Plane" for ideas of what to bring to breastfeed comfortably in flight, and how to deal with any confrontation. Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has good advice to airlines to make all flights breastfeeding-friendly, and Geeky Gaming Mama reminds us to practice safe cosleeping and breastfeeding practices while on the plane. If you're likely to be tired yourself, make sure you have a safe place to put a young infant while you sleep, since it's not safe to sleep upright with a small baby in your lap. Ideally, buy a separate ticket for your baby and bring along an airline-approved car seat so that you both have a secure spot to rest.

For road trips, make sure to leave extra time and bring extra supplies. Particularly when traveling with kids in the winter, I like to know we have everything that might help in case of a weather emergency. Equip your car with warm blankets, nonperishable snacks, water bottles partly filled so they won't explode if they freeze, jumper cables, flashlights, and charged cell phone with emergency numbers. Keep your gas tank comfortably full as well. A good tip is not to let the gauge slip below a quarter-tank. Don't push it when you're traveling in winter. If you become temporarily stranded, having some extra gas might be the only thing keeping you warm while you wait for help.

But the most important thing to have as a traveling, breastfeeding mother is extra time. You never know when the baby is going to need you to pull over somewhere safe and eat — and the younger the nursling, the more often this will happen — so don't try to rush to your destination. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a parent was never to promise to be anywhere on time. Just accept that a breastfeeding baby is going to need some pit stops to refuel. Find somewhere safe and warm, or use that extra gas I mentioned earlier to keep your car running at a rest stop, and feed safely. Never try to breastfeed in a moving car, even if you're both strapped in — car seats and babies aren't meant to withstand the weight of a mother rushing at them in a sudden stop. What you can do, though, is be a presence to your child by sitting in the backseat with him or her. And this is something anyone in the family can do, not just the nursing mama. I let Sam take over that job when Mikko's had enough alone time, because I get carsick back there and Sam doesn't.

The other way extra time helps is in letting you slow down and drive safely in inclement weather. I still remember rushing to Sam's parents during a blizzard on Christmas Eve one year. We skidded off the exit and ran into a little pole. Fortunately, that was all we hit! That was pre-kids; I would want to take absolutely no chances of rushing on icy roads or during a storm with a baby on board.

Put the relatives to work

If you're visiting or being visited by family members and friends, take advantage of the situation.

Does Grandma want to bounce the baby for an hour? Let her enjoy her bonding opportunity, while you take some time to eat a warm meal — with two hands and actual silverware!

Does your young cousin want to play countless games of peekaboo with your toddler? Say: Go for it, cuz! Now you have a chance to enjoy some adult conversation for once.

Instead of trying to do it all yourself, let there be a dispersal of responsibility, and take the time, at this stage in your life, to relax and just enjoy the holidays. It might feel selfish, but as a breastfeeding mama, you are supplying the nutrient load of an entire other human. That gives you the right for a little time to put your feet up! And your loved ones will actually appreciate the chance to interact with your little bundle of joy.

If no one is volunteering to help you out, you might have to get specific and ask for help. Sometimes people don't know what would be most helpful for a nursing mama, so you might have to point out what does and doesn't work for you. For instance, you might need to keep a newborn close for those frequent feedings rather than pass the sweetness around, but you can request that someone bring you a cup of holiday punch or fill a plate from the buffet with finger foods and set it on a convenient table at your side.

Similarly, if you're hosting the holiday gathering, be shameless about requesting help, both in advance and on the day. Make it a potluck where you provide just one dish — if any at all. Be reckless and use paper plates, or assign clean-up duty to some of the tween and teenage set. They'll probably enjoy the chance to have a little water fight with each other, anyway — bonding over bubbles, and all that! Have a group of friends come over early to help you decorate and tidy, or see if you can wangle an early present of a cleaning service gift certificate.

Have an answer ready for any questions or criticism

Consider ahead of time how you might smoothly handle any criticisms of your breastfeeding or your parenting style. This is not meant to make you paranoid. Just as I have never been asked to cover up on an airplane while breastfeeding but some women have, and just as I have not had nosy relatives criticize my commitment to full-term breastfeeding but other women have, I prefer to go into a situation with forethought of how I might conduct myself if something should occur. Here are a couple resources that should help you formulate a plan: Kellymom's "Handling criticism about breastfeeding" and The Tranquil Parent's "Six ways to defend extended breastfeeding, positive discipline, or other attachment parenting habits." If, for instance, you don't want to agree to move to another room or cover up while breastfeeding, have a calm response to give to anyone who asks you to.

You might also practice ahead of time ways to breastfeed in as discreet a way as will keep you comfortable, perhaps investing in a few simple key pieces of a nursing wardrobe in advance, such as a nursing camisole or belly band. I'm not at all suggesting that you cover up or treat breastfeeding as anything other than natural and normal — but you have to decide what your personal comfort level is, considering your experience with breastfeeding and which people will be present to observe you.

Slow down and pare down

It's so tempting to run yourself ragged over the holidays, even when you're not breastfeeding and caring for children. But when you are, it's even more important to weigh carefully what sorts of commitments you'll allow yourself to get into.

Be willing to say no to parties that don't interest you or events that would require finagling a babysitter and expressing milk, if that would stress you out. Agree not to exchange presents with some people, or go more low-key on the giving. Don't wear yourself out trying to hand-knit 20 people on your list an extra-special poncho. Maybe this is the year you commit to an emailed annual letter instead of hand assembling artsy holiday cards. Who knows? In making things easier on yourself, you might just save money and help the environment, too.

And if you have a newborn: That advice to sleep when the baby sleeps? It still applies during the holidays. If you need a rest and can grab a nap, take the chance!

Please leave your comments of how you relax and recharge as a breastfeeding mama during busy seasons. And check out the other carnival participants for their advice!


Enjoy these posts from our other carnival participants:

Cave Mother: A Mother's Christmas
Mama Knows Breast: A Breastfeeding Poem: Twas the Breastfeeder's Nighttime
Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Don't Forget the Pump!'s Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Breastfeeding and Dehydration
Accidental Pharmacist: Motherhood Statement
Mommy News & Views: The Holidays And Being A Breastfeeding Mom
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Caring for a high-needs baby during the holidays
Motherwear Blog: Taking care of yourself and your baby during the holidays
Breastfeeding Mums: Looking After Yourself During the Holidays: 7 Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers
Happy Bambino: How to take care of ourselves during the holidays
The Adventures of Lactating Girl: Breastfeeding and the holidays
Blacktating: Advice for the Holidays

Photo courtesy BenSpark on flickr (cc)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Why I want my son to take ballet classes

I just entered a giveaway for a ballet-themed children's DVD, and I was inspired to write up a little post for my review site explaining why I was so hep to win a DVD from (yes, this is the name) Prima Princessa for my two-year-old son.

Now, if you're not interested in the giveaway yourself, that's cool. But I wanted to share what I wrote about ballet, parenting, and passing on the gift of an active body. (Original post here.)

Today's Give Away is giving away a Blush Topless Undershirt from Blush and Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker, a 40-minute DVD from Prima Princessa!

I'll refer you to this post for a preview of the Blush topless undershirt/belly band, good for maternity, breastfeeding, or just covering your tummy in general!

I want to highlight the Prima Princessa DVD and explain why I want such a very pink DVD for my son.

I enjoyed but was not good at ballet growing up. We moved around a lot, so I took classes here and there, but it was not a high priority for my mom, who was not a girly-girl herself and who couldn't understand how she'd given birth to one. When I moved to Seattle, I found out about a Very Beginning Ballet class for adults only. It still took me a couple years to work up the courage — but eventually I enrolled. And I've been dancing since! I did take some time off during my pregnancies and postpartum recovery, but that's fine. I'm doing it for fun, not with any grand goal in mind. I am not a physically adept person, as every one of my despairing gym teachers would attest. Ballet has allowed me to connect with what my body can do. It has helped with some of my balance problems. The repetition and concentration required make me feel centered and aware of myself as a whole person, body and all.

I want that for my son. I don't know if it will be ballet specifically that inspires him, and I know I can't force such a revelation. But I hope he can grow up enjoying moving his body. If he has his father's and my predilection toward suckiness in sports, I don't want (failing at) competition to get in the way of enjoying physical movement and working toward improving himself.

Mikko's 2 and a half. He can begin toddler ballet classes at 3. I'm going to enroll him and see what happens. If he doesn't like it, he's free to leave. If he stays till the age of partnering, I guarantee he'll be the darling of all the girly-girls who mostly fill the classes!

I had a helper take him to one of my classes so he could see where I go every week, and he loved watching me and the other ladies dance. (My class currently is all women, though I have been in adult classes with men as well.) He also got to see some of the little kids dance before my class began.

The next logical step is to have him see a real ballet, on stage. But I think (know!) he's too young to sit through a performance, so it would be a waste of the ticket price.

And so we come around to this DVD. It seems to have it all: It shows a real performance by a professional ballet company. It shows little children dancing. It shows older, accomplished children (including boys!) demonstrating specific steps. I love it! I think Mikko will, too.

Enter fast for the Blush Topless Undershirt or Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker at Today's Give Away by Dec. 20.

Now, as an aspiring unschooler, I do have a few qualms about a ballet class, but I'll observe it when he starts to make sure it fits my expectations. I don't find that my own class is restrictive or triggers my learned behaviors of trying to please the teacher, but then, I am taking it as an adult. I appreciate that the other women and girls taking along with me are not competitive and are kind to everyone in the class, and there's a wide range of body shapes and sizes, as well as ages, which I love. I don't think that classes are inherently bad for unschoolers, as long as the child retains a sense of autonomy and is taking the class for himself, not to please the teacher — or his mother! Yes, I am aware of this risk and will take pains not to project my own desires onto my son. I do think it's perfectly natural, however, to lead children into activities that you personally enjoy, as a starting point for them to discover their own preferences.

And, of course, there's the feminist in me who, maybe in reaction to my own girly obsession with ballet, says, "Boys can, too, take ballet! I'll show them. I'll show ALL of them!" But, again, I don't want that to be an expectation Mikko has to live up to.

I also love the idea of doing ballet with him, that we could practice together at home, go to performances together, talk about what we're doing in our separate classes. In the same vein of co-participation, Sam has been thinking of enrolling with Mikko in a parent-toddler martial arts class.

I'm curious. What are your views or hopes as far as encouraging activeness in your children? Do plan to sign them up for any sports teams or classes? How does your own experience with athletics as a child fit in with your plans? How will you participate with your child? You don't have to answer all of those questions, just whatever sparks a thought!

I want to give a shout-out to the two Seattle ballet studios at which I've taken classes: Thank you, The Ballet Studio & Seattle Civic Dance Theatre! I recommend either one if you're local and looking for a good adult class, and SCDT also (mostly) has children's classes.
Photo of
The Nutcracker rehearsal courtesy cproppe on flickr (cc)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Healthy Child, Healthy World: Simple steps to create a cleaner, greener, safer home

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. This is the second guest post from today's blogger, Molly Jarrell. She's reviewing the book Healthy Child, Healthy World and is excited about how she's put some of the green cleaning ideas into practice.

Guest post by Molly Jarrell

Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, by Christopher GaviganI picked up this book, Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home, at the library a few weeks ago because my allergies were killing me. I was using my asthma inhaler twice a day, every day. And every time my husband or I cleaned the bathroom the house stank so bad of cleaner that I felt like I was suffocating. I couldn't help but think about all those tiny, airborne chemical particles resting in the air of our tiny little home and finding their way into little Eden's lungs as she plays and sleeps. Or mine.

I haven't always had asthma. Several years ago I was a regular runner, especially in the years right after the 2003 firestorms that swept through San Diego and burned over 280,000 acres. For a week, the air was so think with smoke and ash that at noon it looked like dusk. We kept all our doors and windows shut. I didn't use the a/c in our car. I didn't run during the fires. Then came the 2007 fires, which burned over 500,000 acres.

Somewhere between then and now I developed asthma. Got pregnant. Read Sandra Steingraber's book Having Faith: An Ecologist's Journey to Motherhood. Had a baby.

And realized my house is really, really full of chemicals.

But, I digress. I found this book at the library, and it caught my eye for several reasons. One, I like the title. I'm all for anything that will affect the greater good. Two, the author, Christopher Gavigan, is CEO of a nonprofit by the same name (Healthy Child Healthy World) and has spent more than a decade working to make our world healthier and safer for children. Three, Sandra Steingraber, author of that book I read during pregnancy, is on his board.

Triple whammy; I checked out the book.

I should pause here and tell you that there is no way, no way on earth I could review the whole book here in one blog post. There is just too much information. I think I'm going to have to buy the book and keep it around the house like a manual. So, for the purposes of this blog post I will just share my learnings from the chapter about house cleaning, since that is what I picked the book up for in the first place.

I should also add that nobody could ever do everything that is in this book. But everybody can do something, and that is the call this author gives us. Just do something. Even if it's just one thing. Just take one step at a time, and each step will move you toward a healthier, safer life.

Back to cleaning!

I learned that the harmful chemicals in modern cleaners are ammonia, chlorine, phosphates and lye. I guess I knew this, but I never really thought about it before. I didn't think about the residue they leave behind, and that taking a shower in a freshly-cleaned bath would release those chemicals into the steam and permeate my body through my skin and my lungs. (This reminds me of something I learned in Steingraber's book: taking a shower — I forget the actutal timeframe, but it was a reasonable and ordinary timeframe — exposes you to the equivalent amount of chemicals you would consume by drinking a gallon and a half of tap water.)

Green products, on the other hand, include hydrogen peroxide (a natural bleaching agent and antimicrobial), soap (natural, oil-based soap, like Castile or glycerin), baking soda, vinegar (natural deodorizer that kills mold and bacteria), lemon juice and essential oils (like lavender and thyme).

It's kind of ironic, isn't it? I have to read a book to learn that I can clean my house with soap and water?

I must say, I did not know I could spray vinegar on my shower and it will dissolve soap scum and mineral buildup instead of using CLR or some other caustic agent that makes my eyes and lungs burn until I can't breathe and run wheezing for my inhaler. Is this really true?

So, the real question is whether or not this stuff works. The book gives a recipe for All Purpose Cleaner, but I haven't tried it yet because I need to buy Borax and Castile soap, and, well, I just haven't made it to the store yet. (Or cleaned the kitchen, or placed my prescription order, or made the bed, or washed my hair or taken my vitamins. Hey, I'm a working mom, give me a break! Today I chose to pluck my eyebrows. I'll get to all that other stuff later.)

I did, however, try out baking soda on the bathtub a few days ago. I just sprinkled it around and scrubbed it with a scouring brush. Wow! I was surprised how fast it got the gunk up! It was a little gunky in and of itself, but a quick rinse washed it all down the drain and I felt better knowing my daughter wasn't going to be breathing caustic fumes that night for her bath.

In fact, an added benefit of cleaning green is that your kids can actually clean your house with you. Now, that's a seller! Eden is 15 months and can already feed the cats, throw away trash, put laundry in the hamper and push the "start" button on the dryer. If I could just teach her how to clean the shower and scrub floors we'd be set.

I had better wrap this up or else this post will be as long as the book! There are lots of other helpful tips in here, like using paprika to get rid of ants (tried that — IT WORKS!! — I know, weird) and chapters on healthy eating, beauty products, children's toys, furniture, gardening, drinking water, home improvement and pets.

For my action plan, I think I'll create a calendar of ideas I want to implement. Maybe one a week. That means that (realistically speaking, not mathematically speaking) I'll probably have implemented 30 ideas by the time next year rolls around.

That's a lot of changes. Easy changes.

I can do this!

Your turn: What green cleaning techniques do you use? As the New Year comes upon us, what simple steps to create a healthier home will be in your resolution list?

MollyMolly is a relatively new mother of one from Southern Californira who is trying to take motherhood, a full-time job, and all the rest of the whirlwind of life one day at a time. She likes wine, reading, and scrapbooking; she's also a terrible gardener and can't remember birthdays to save her life. Five days a week, she heads off to her job in corporate communications while Mr. Molly, a professional musician, stays home with The Peanut. Motherhood has been making Molly more eco-concious, more patient, more tired and more aware. You can visit Molly's neck of the woods at

Breastfeeding Week nursing clothing & books giveaways

I posted about this on Hobo Mama Reviews, but since it's breastfeeding-related, I thought I'd put in a mention here, too.

It's Breastfeeding Week at a modern mom's only time is naptime, and these are the giveaways ending today, Dec. 18:

It's really easy to enter, so pop on over by following the above links to to enter whichever you want.

Head over to my review post on the giveaways to hear my take on the nursing cover-ups and camis on offer.

Here's hoping I win one or more, so I can do a full review!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A few notes to share

I've been collecting links to pass along, and I figure I should start somewhere! Here are a few items of interest for today.

     • Today, Dec. 17, is the last day to order at Amazon and have free Super Saver Shipping still get to you (or your gift recipient) by Christmas. But do not despair. There are still other shipping options if you're more last-minute than that! Can I just mention that, yes, I am one of those people who is not yet done with holiday shopping?

     • These e-cards are making me laugh. happy holidays

We're heavily considering sending an email Christmas letter after all this year, but for the reason that we can't find the ink to the color printer — or, indeed, the printer itself, after the move. But we feel we might seem like we're ecologically pretentious.

     • In light of the recent US health care debate, of which I am too disheartened even to find a relevant link, I present you His Boys Can Swim's total of the cost of having a baby without health insurance: over $10,000. Now, in some ways, her list is a recommendation for making alternate decisions in regards to maternity and delivery health care. For instance, we used midwives, who charge a flat fee of approximately $2,000. That included hour-long prenatal visits, including some in our home, and then their nurturing presence throughout the whole, long, two-day labor and delivery. Home births tend to be much less expensive than even an uncomplicated hospital birth, even if insurance doesn't cover the cost, and I would cut down on unnecessary exams and ultrasounds (we didn't have one) and forgo the circumcision for any male babies.
      But her point is well made, considering that her pregnancy and birth were "normal" by US standards, and they had to pay all of those costs out of pocket!
      When I wrote my post on deciding whether or not to have another baby, some in the comments brought up the added expense of having another child. It's honestly something I had not considered, because I haven't found that Mikko has added many financial burdens to our life. It might be that we're cheap, or got a lot of things second-hand, or that we have low expectations for how much living space our family needs. It might be that we don't plan to pay for our children's college or for private schools beforehand. Whatever the reason, adding one more didn't seem unreasonable to me in terms of finances.
      And then I got the annual letter from our health insurance company raising our rates. Sam and I are self-employed, so we purchase our own (crappy) health insurance. We chose a high deductible with a Health Savings Account (of which our HSA administrator just declared bankruptcy and made off with our money, but that's another sad story... Let's just say you never want to get a letter in the mail with a lawyer's office as the return address.). We've committed to not using health care services as much as we can avoid it. Note that this is not a sustainable commitment, but it's working for now.
      Except...if we had another baby. Well, then. There is exactly one plan that includes maternity benefits, and it is three times more per month than our current plan. That, my friend, is a significant cost difference! And I'm not sure it's one we can afford, should we decide to go for another baby. We might just have to pay cash for midwifery services and try like heck to avoid the hospital this next time around.
      And heaven help us if we get pregnant accidentally but want to switch to the maternity insurance...because there's a nine-month waiting period for pre-existing conditions. Duh!
      Say what you want about the politics of it, but this right here is the face of health care reform. The not-so-well-off but not-so-poor, working middle class, who have to plan their family size around the whims and unfair monopoly of the health insurance companies.

And I am tremendously late for a birthday party, so that's all for today. Mikko is going to be so excited that we're lighting candles and singing the famous song! It's hard to know whether birthdays or Halloween are the better holiday in his eyes. One has cake-cake (as he calls it), and one has candy that people give you for free. It's a toss-up! Let's see what he makes of Christmas.