Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: The Diva Cup isn't just for women

toddler playing with Diva Cup bag
Mikko found my Diva Cup and loved the little bag it came in. "Mama's bag!"

toddler playing with Diva Cup bag
I know it's hard to see, but he has the straps around his wrists like handcuffs —
an act which later caused him to take a tumble because he didn't
have his hands free to break his fall.

toddler playing with Diva Cup bag
These are the pictures that are coming out if he ever dares
to bring a date home to meet us.


P.S. I need to give you my take on the Diva Cup now I've been using it for several months. Stay tuned...

Presenting opportunities to kids (and the limits parents impose)

I've been thinking philosophically about a certain topic for some time. I don't have any answers or conclusions, just thoughts. Any unschoolers, feel free to chime in with your perspective.

In the unschooling mindset, as I am understanding it, you let your children follow their interests and passions and then facilitate their attempts.

toddler plays with scissors
Mikko demonstrating proper scissor safety at 14 months. Note that we'd taped up the blades, but that didn't last long...
I like that, and I hope to (continue to) do that. For instance, when Mikko showed an interest in cutting things up with scissors: First, I found him some decent scissors. Mikko's been handling our regular office scissors since he was, oh, ten months old or so, but I knew both he and I would be more comfortable with a pair sized to his chubby starfish hands. (I seriously love these Westcott/Acme For Kids scissors — blunt tip but metal blades so they actually cut instead of gumming the paper — they had them in the grocery store's office supply section in packs of two, and I feel like I really lucked out on the quality considering where I bought them and how little I paid!) I handed over magazines, Christmas ribbon, anything that comes in the mail, and other tempting paper goods. And then I supervised and suggested activities we could do that involved cutting.

But how did Mikko even become interested in the scissoring arts in the first place? It was because he'd seen us use scissors every day in our home business of online sales. We always have several pairs here and there (we're always misplacing them and buying more). He's been intrigued by our wielding of these shiny metal tools for all the 2.75 years of his life so far, and it was only natural he'd want to try his hand at working them.

So there's my conundrum. How do you follow your kids' interests without, particularly at younger ages, being the person who gives your kids those interests? How do you decide which opportunities to present to your kids, and is there a way to untangle what was your influence versus what was their genuine inclination? And does it even matter in the end?

I ask these questions because some people, online and in real life, have asked me (gently) why I've chosen to speak German with Mikko and why I would like to enroll him in ballet classes. There's genuine curiosity there, but in some cases also an unspoken declaration that they as parents have made different choices and would not have made those ones.

I think about this in terms of music as well, though no one so far has questioned me on this. I play the piano and guitar, and Mikko is interested in — surprise! — the piano and guitar. Perhaps because playing those instruments is so socially positive in my culture, no one has thought to ask why I'm "encouraging" him to play those in particular. (I put "encouraging" in quotes, because I've really not started any sort of campaign to get him to play, just let him tootle around, and I have bought other musical instruments for him — it's just that nice ones are expensive, so the only nice ones we have are the ones I play!) If I were interested in having him play the bagpipes or accordion or bassoon, I wonder if people would think I was foisting my strange interests on him, you know? If Mikko finds the bagpipes or bassoon later in life and wants to play them, I will support him as best I can (allowing for our HOA's quiet hours...), but I can't introduce him to everything at once. We have to start somewhere!

I have a lot of deep thoughts when I'm watching (a) the Olympics, (b) Cirque du Soleil, and (c) child actors.

Oh, they're related. Just you wait.

With the Olympics and Cirque du Soleil, I think: Wowzers, that's a lot of specialized equipment and knowhow. These are whole worlds of activities and skills and tools I know nothing about. I watch, say, the circus folk doing that twirly dealio on the long strips of cloth and somewhere in my mind comes the thought: There must be circus supply stores for things like that. Those strips of cloth must have a name. And those people who are performing the act probably have all sorts of vocabulary about what they're doing, vocabulary I know not of. And when you hear the back stories of how a lot of these performers or athletes got into what they're doing, it's often: (a) family history (coming from a long line of lugers, say) or (b) proximity (living next to the luge course).

With child stars and Olympic athletes, I see a lot of sacrifices made for the sake of one family member's goal. I find it a little skewed, to be honest, but it's one of those fascinating and repulsive things that I can't look away from. When I hear a story about a family that took out an extra mortgage on their house, are on the verge of bankruptcy, and had to hold multiple fundraisers — all to watch their kid not medal at the Olympics — I think, That's either dedication — or foolishness. Hard call. (Maybe. I don't know all the circumstances and history that go into that sort of decision.)

When child actors become screwed-up adults (or, frankly, children), I think, It was the parent's job to protect them from that. Even though I really wanted to play Annie (how dare you steal my role, Aileen Quinn!), I now appreciate that my parents did nothing to feed any potential egomania in me and let me stay a kid. (Not saying I had any chance whatsoever of becoming a movie star; I'm just saying I appreciate now that they didn't even bother to try.)

So I guess I do feel that parents have a lot of influence in terms of what their kids will be exposed to in the first place, after which kids can make their decisions of what to pursue and what to discard.

And those parental decisions can be based on a multitude of factors, such as expense (I really loved horses as a girl, and my parents never bought me one. Ever.), familiarity (such as the way I know piano but don't know the accordion), what the parents value (for instance, music and language are loves I can't help passing on), what the parents are already doing (such as our family business), cultural or geographical limitations (my son will probably never learn to run a banana plantation or speak Tsonga — he might, but there are a lot of possible interests unlikely to occur to him simply because they never come up in our lives here; in the same way, a child growing up in a tropical country is unlikely to become a bobsledder, adorable stories notwithstanding), and also aspects like whether the parents think a particular child's interest is a good fit for the family as a whole. For instance, it might be possible to sacrifice and find a way to make Mikko a world-class ski jumper — or we might decide that such a sacrifice (moving our family nearer a mountain resort town and spending money on equipment and lessons and racing fees and whatever else ski jumpers need to function) is not a prudent choice for our family as a unit.

That doesn't mean Mikko the adolescent or adult couldn't find a way to make such a dream come true on his own — but there are a lot of dreams that don't come true unless you start young, and we're necessarily limiting his horizons through our decisions.

I've begun coming to terms with this in my own life. I have so many potential passions, but at 33 and turning 34 next month, I've narrowed down my list and am mostly content with that. I've let some things go to concentrate more fully on others. All of life is a series of saying "no" to something (most things) to say "yes" to something else. It's like falling in love with a person you want to be with the rest of your life. You're thereby saying "no" to being in love with everyone else in the world, for your whole lifetime (you hope). And it's not scary; it's fine. Letting go of those possibilities is an acceptable loss when you've found what you desire.

But with a child, with my two-year-old, I don't want to narrow his options in a way that's harmful to him. I want to present him with possibilities, but I can't — I simply can't — present him with all the possibilities in the world.

So how do I choose which ones to lay before him, in a way that's honoring to the individual he is? How do I know when to encourage trying out a particular activity I think he might connect with, and when to step back and see what he'll find on his own?

You can't raise a child in a vacuum, presenting absolutely no options. If you never play an instrument or sing in front of your child or let him hear music playing, he simply won't know it exists. If you choose not to speak any language to your child so as not to influence which language he will choose for himself, the neural pathways in his brain won't form and he'll have trouble learning language at all. You have to make choices. You do. But how do you decide and evaluate the ones you make?

Help me think through this some more:

What opportunities are you going to present to your children — music, athletics, language, art, schooling, housework, sewing, classes, hobbies, business? What are your limits (inherent or intentional) on how much freedom you'll allow your children in choosing or following their passions? How will you encourage them to discover their own interests?

And if you want to take it personal:


Which of your many passions have you let go to pursue something more important? Which dreams are still beckoning to you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Supermom: A children's book about attachment parenting animals

Supermom by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom


We were at the library today. Mikko quite enjoyed his time berserking it up in the children's room. He pulled a library stool over and used it to climb up onto the table and then onto the backs of the stuffed chairs, which he then proceeded to "ride like a horsie." I looked the other way and pretended my child was one of the little angels at the table carefully paging through a sweet picture book on mermaids. Because, you know? My kid needs all the balance practice he can get.

1-2-3: A Child's First Counting BookI was at the library to pick up 1-2-3: A Child's First Counting Book, a beauty recommended by Thomasin of Propson Palingenesis. While I was there, I allowed the window-shopping urge to take hold, because what better place to be extravagant than a public library?

Supermom, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström, had been placed on display by the librarians. I somehow always feel guilty plucking books off the display racks, but — well, the point is to attract attention, yes? It always works on me.

I wasn't sure what I'd think. I was a little apprehensive just from the title. When "supermom" comes into play in adult conversations in the U.S., talk tends toward batting down the notion that moms can "have it all" and "do it all." I figured that wasn't what a children's book was about, but I still cracked it with a tiny frisson of anxiety.

The book is sort of about how mamas can do it all, but the "all" is much less U.S.- and middle-class-centric — heck, it's less human- and mammal-centric.

It's a book about how mothers of all species and sorts care for their young. They feed them; they wash them; they birth them; they call to them. Each spread shows at least one human mama and baby and at least one animal mama and baby, and the text alternates between telling what moms do and giving little hinting notes about biology and animal behavior. In the back is an index of all the mothers that gives a little more information; true animal fans would want to do further research, but for a 2-year-old like Mikko, these tidbits are a fine first look at a variety of animal mother-baby dyads (or triads or whatever-ads).

Next to the human mama giving her two tots a bath in a tub is a tiger mother licking her cubs. Next to a human mama serving her toddler and baby at a table is an osprey bringing a fish back to the nest. Mikko was quite taken with the swan mother and human mother simultaneously defending their young from the other's aggressiveness. He told the swan quite emphatically: "No eat baby!" There are cross-sections of various pregnant mothers and their fetuses. (Note: If anyone knows how to explain to a 2-year-old how a drawing suggests that we're seeing inside someone's skin, please do let me know.) Next to a mother roughhousing with her girls are furry creatures wrestling with the caption "Weasel moms have all kinds of tricks!" So it's cute and informative and relatable.

But who cares about any of that when there are babywearing, breastfeeding, and cosleeping pictures within!

I was so stoked and surprised and actually had to look at the pictures several times to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing.

babywearing in Supermom by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom


See? Cute babywearing baby and mama with a simple wrap. (Psst, I don't think she's the one with lots of legs, fur, or tail.)

Let's take a look at the cover again:

Supermom by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom


It's similar to a picture inside (one I couldn't find online) that's from a page about cuddling, aka cosleeping.

On another page, there's an adorable breastfeeding baby with a little hand on the mother's breast, the mama in a nightgown looking down patiently. The text reads, "Human babies can wake up anytime to feed!"

Just in case you think it's AP-aggressive, there are pictures of a baby in a stroller and a toddler in a child's bed and just general images of mothers and babies frolicking and eating solids and so forth. So it doesn't come across as "selling" a particular lifestyle of parenting, just celebrating close parent relationships in general — but it shows my parenting experience, which I am so thrilled about witnessing in book form. I also really appreciate how the illustrations show mothers of many ethnicities (all framed within a Western-style culture, not as something other and exotic).

There are a few aspects of the book I could quibble with. One is the way motherless families are glossed over. "We call the person who gave birth to us 'mom.' We can call the grownup who takes care of us 'mom,' too." I appreciate that it alludes to adoption, but there are plenty of children raised by non-moms as well. Now, it's probably the case that such families would not be attracted to a book called Supermom; then again, even readers being raised by moms can know of and want to understand those who are not. But, hey, it's a picture book — not a research paper on all possible family permutations, so I understand celebrating moms and not making things too complicated.

In the same sort of vein, the book gives an impression of being comprehensive because of all the different animals, and the language of the book suggests that every mother behaves in a motherly fashion. Naturally, we know there are mothers out there, both animal and human, who parent in what we would consider a very unmotherly manner. The book focuses on the positives without alluding to any negatives — I guess the hint of this bent would be in the title Supermom.

A third is a small point: The page with a mom who has a colorful spiked hairstyle and multiple piercings is under the wording "She might look scary, but she always treats her babies very carefully." I have a distaste for naming a counter-cultural look "scary," but what I did like about that page was that it (a) shows a mother who doesn't look June Cleaver-ish and (b) affirms that such alterna-mamas are worthy as mothers.

I cheerfully added Supermom to my teetering checkout pile and have put on hold another Mick Manning and Brita Granström book: The World Is Full of Babies. It sounds like a winner, too — I'll have to let you know.

Guess what else happened while we were at the library! Someone got his own library card:

child library card


And signed it himself. And, yes, the signature matches the one on the application!

Supermum by Mick Manning and Brita GranstromBy the way, the authors are in the UK, so indeedy, the book is sold there as Supermum. I'd be fine with that version, too!

Visit Mick and Brita's website at MickandBrita.com.

I'd like to do some more reviews of children's books that appeal to those with an attachment parenting or continuum parenting mindset (and perhaps write my own). I have a few in mind already, but please feel free to chime in with your favorites to add to my reading list.

(P.S. Thanks to Mamamilkers for clueing me into the whole child-library-card thing. Now our family has more hold slots available for the books you all are going to suggest!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Being intentional with non-native bilingualism

This post was written for inclusion in Bilingual for Fun's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted this month by Multi Tongue Kids. Check back at Multi Tongue Kids for the carnival when it posts April 2!

eating currywurst at an Imbiss in Germany
Yummy yummy Currywurst at an Imbiß in Germany
back in those pre-child travel days
I've been thinking lately about my language goals for my son and me. I'm trying to raise him bilingually in German and English while not being a native German speaker.

And I feel like I keep trying to beat this into myself, but ... I really need to be intentional about it. Attending a German-immersion preschool two days a week is an excellent start for Mikko to become familiar with understanding German, but I really want both of us to improve at speaking German.

The latest update from the preschool teachers is that he's had a verbal explosion, something we've seen at home as well. Mikko is 2.75 years old, will be 3 in June, and he's really done everything at his own pace (read: slowly), including talking. I wasn't worried, because there was nothing wrong. His hearing had checked out (much better than mine, I'm afraid), and he was signing up a storm. I knew some kids just take longer than others to get their feet under them, verbally speaking. (What a terrible metaphor that just was. Now I'm picturing feet under a mouth.)

Anyway, when his teachers started raving about how much he's been talking at Schule lately, I made the mistaken assumption that some of these utterances were auf Deutsch. Ah, no, they informed me — it's all in English. But that's normal! they reassured me. And I know it is. I've seen even the older kids of the school (4 and 5 years old) who have native German parents speak only English and have to be reminded (constantly) to speak German by the teachers. (They do this only with the older kids.)

But just because it's normal doesn't make it ideal! I have felt self-conscious ever since first moving to Germany when I was 10 about how bad my German is. I hate speaking it with native speakers, fearing that they're silently criticizing me, that I'm murdering their beloved language before their eyes. I really, really want my son to be able to speak German confidently and boldly. Notice I didn't say "perfectly" or even "fluently." He can get to whatever skill level he wants to.

I just want him not to be afraid.

And I think the place to start? Well, duh, with myself, of course.

I need to get over this fear. I think if Mikko sees me speaking German myself, with abandon, that he will feel like he has a partner and can join in. I much prefer speaking German with other non-native learners, because I know we're all on the same team. I'm hoping to create my own mini-team of Mikko and me, but that means doing some things that (a) might scare me at first and (b) will inconvenience me a little.

And all this means: I need a plan.

I have been reading umpteen good articles by Sarah Mueller over at Alphabet Garten about making a language plan for your family. Her tips can work for your family no matter what language you're being intentional about, including sign language. Here are some resources she's put together to help (you, me, Mikko, everybody!):

  • If you sign up for the Alphabet Garten newsletter, Sarah will send you the free, downloadable book Creating Your German Immersion Plan: How to plan for bilingual success in your family. As I said, I think it works for any language. It will help you identify your starting point, your goals, and ways to get where you want to be. It's especially useful with older (school-age) children, because you can incorporate them into the decision-making process.
  • Create your concrete action plan at The Taking Action Forum and then update daily or weekly with your progress. This will give you public accountability. If your family doesn't speak German, maybe you can find a similar forum in your target language where you can start a thread like this.
  • Have you considered abandoning German because of a bully? (Hint: The bully is you.) Read this if you're feeling discouraged by your lack of skill or your lack of progress.

So? My plan:
  • I will continue to speak German on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, as well as to and from Schule (and whenever else I feel like it). I find that the more I speak, the more I find it comfortable. It's just the remembering that's the challenge. Well, that and the fact that my vocabulary is terrible. Which brings me to point #2:
  • I will practice improving my own German for 15 minutes each day. That sounds doable, right? I've found a site called Livemocha that offers free online lessons (in a variety of languages) using video and audio, as well as a community of native speakers willing to review other people's work. In other words, I review people's attempts at English, and someone else reviews my German. I haven't tried out that function yet, but it sounds rewarding. The lessons themselves are very basic, but you know? I can really use anything to reinforce my grammar and expand my vocabulary, so I'm going for it. I'll see how far I go with the free version and then figure out what I want to do from there.
  • On German-speaking days, I will play only German children's music (particularly in the car) or children's books-on-tape (exclusively in the car, since that's the only place we still have a tape deck!), and I will read only German books for bedtime stories and throughout the day. This means preparing my environment to have all the tools handy. Audiotapes stay in the car, but I should grab the iPod before I go and cue it to my German section. I have some German books by the bed, but I should get out others.
  • Don't believe I'm serious? Here's my public action plan on the forum! Now I'll have to admit it when I fail succeed gloriously!
  • Here's more of the scary part. I need to speak German to actual Germans, and I need Mikko to witness this fearlessness (ack ack ack — just writing this makes me nervous). I'll start with speaking only German to his teachers at school. Baby steps, right? Deep breath. Then I'll consider going to one of the Kinderstube playgroup events that have real Germans at them. Ack ack ack. If you live in Seattle and you speak German, let this be my advance plea not to laugh at me. Danke sehr in advance.
  • Don't tell Sam, but I'd really like to take a trip to a German-speaking country again. (Oh, crap, he reads my blog, doesn't he? The secret's out.) The problem is, it means money (eep) and flying a bazillion hours with a toddler (double eep). We're trying out a family plane trip this summer to the East Coast, so that will be my test on whether to even dream this, for the near or distant future. (Maybe, in addition to the English airport books, this would help?) I find it's a lot easier to immerse yourself in German when, um, you don't have a choice! And one thing that's really missing from my non-native German is the culture part of the language. I do what I can, but being within the actual culture would do so much more!
What are your language plans for your family? If you are a learner of another language, how do you inspire yourself to be comfortable using it with native speakers? (Give me tips here! I need 'em.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Toddler collage

Today's "Wordless" Wednesday inspired by this No Time for Flashcards Valentine's Day collage, though there is a more recent shamrock collage as well.

toddler cutting ribbon for collage
Special art supplies? Bah. Let's use leftovers and recycling (i.e., trash).
Dedicated art space? ... Um, how about the couch?

toddler sprinkling glitter on the collage
Sprinkling glitter star confetti. I bought this confetti an eon ago to put into letters.
No one enjoys getting confetti in letters, I soon found out.

toddler paper and ribbon collage
Collage #1

toddler ribbon and sparkly glitter stars collage
Collage #2

3D view of toddler collage
3D view

They look almost like my inspirations, yes?
Valentine heart collage from No Time for Flashcards
No Time for Flashcards: Collage Heart

Shamrock collage from No Time for Flashcards
No Time for Flashcards: Soft Collage Shamrock


And this, my friends, is why I don't run a craft blog. Fortunately, my 2-year-old doesn't know the difference and keeps asking to cut and glue. Thanks for the inspiration, Allie!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Co-sleeping contest: Finding out what not cosleeping is like

[April 5, 2010] Good news! I found out I'm one of the winners of the Co-Sleeping Essay Contest. This essay will be published in the book Are You Co-Sleeping? Me Too! and will soon be featured on www.CosleepingSurvey.com. Hooray!



Having shared a bed with my boy since his birth, I never got to experience the alternative to co-sleeping until last week. My husband's head-cold-induced snoring kicked me out of bed, and I had finally drifted off on the couch downstairs when my toddler woke up, crying and summoning me back to our bedroom.

I groggily disentangled myself from the covers I'd purloined, wincing at the cold air that hit my pajamaed body. I was so weary climbing the stairs that I seriously thought I might drop right there.

It was then it hit me: This is what it's like not to co-sleep. This is what most parents I know do every night. No wonder they're all so tired! No wonder they wish more than anything for their children to sleep through the night.

I snuggled back in with my baby, who eagerly slid in to nurse. I kicked my husband (gently!) until he rolled over, and we all drifted back into peaceful sleep.

Bed sharing has been the way our family gets the sleep we need. Well — provided no one has a head cold!



This is my entry into the Co-Sleeping Contest I detailed in this post. I chose the topic of "How you got better sleep."

If you want to enter, submit your feel-good essay at www.CosleepingSurvey.com today (Mar. 23). It's only 250 words (or fewer), so you still have time to crank one out!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Calling for submissions for the April Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Our Carnival of Natural Parenting participants continue to inspire us with the honesty of their stories and the quality of their writing. We hope you'll join us for the fourth carnival in April! (Check out January, February, and March if you missed them.) Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

white envelope in a fence for April Carnival of Natural Parenting--Parenting adviceHere are the submission details for April 2010:

Theme: Parenting advice: We all need a little input. Write a Dear Abby-like letter asking your readers for help with a current parenting issue. Let your readers give solutions to your problem in the comments. (You're free to post later with your own answers and a conclusion to the problem!)

Deadline: Tuesday, April 6. Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Carnival date: Tuesday, April 13. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on April 13 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on April 13 by noon EST, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: April Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts on different schedules and conferring over email, our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact us (mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com) about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, we find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact us: mail {at} HoboMama.com and CodeNameMama {at} gmail.com

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaShow off: If you are a (former or current) 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!
<!-- begin button -->
<center><a href="http://www.hobomama.com/p/carnival-of-natural-parenting.html" target="_blank" title="Carnival of Natural Parenting"><img alt="Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama" src="http://i233.photobucket.com/albums/ee159/lintpicker/CNPnaturalparent.jpg" /></a></center>
<!-- end button -->

Stay in touch:



Sunday, March 21, 2010

No need to count calories when breastfeeding

Welcome to the March Carnival of Breastfeeding: The joys of breastfeeding

This month, we're sharing our positive experiences of breastfeeding. Be sure to check out the links at the end for the other participants' excellent posts! I'll be adding more throughout the day Mar. 22.




baby hating solid foods rice cereal
Is your breastfed child not yet thrilled with solids?
Not to worry.
I've been thinking about my blog post on not worrying too much about children's eating and how that relates to breastfeeding.

At some point I want to do a follow-up to that post more generally, since it spoke to various (including non-nursing) ages, but here I want to address one joy of breastfeeding that sprang to mind in connection: When you're breastfeeding your infant as you first introduce solid foods after six months of age, and even later when that exploring baby turns into a picky toddler who won't eat anything solid that's not, say, a french fry or huckleberry ice cream (ahem, we've had our phases), breastfeeding takes away so much of the worry.

Breast milk contains an average of 22 calories per ounce and 1.15 grams of fat per ounce. (This varies based on several factors: foremilk to hindmilk, mother to mother, different times of day, age of the nursling — but those are the averages.)

If you don't know what to make of those numbers, check out this chart from kellymom comparing the calorie and fat content of human milk vs. a number of other common baby foods.

First, you'll notice that breast milk has more calories and fat than formula or whole cow's milk. As you scan down the list, you'll see that the calories of breast milk are comparable to or higher than most other baby foods except for calorie-dense fruits and few other items, and that breast milk annihilates most other baby foods in terms of fat, except for fat-rich avocados. On this list, only whole-milk yogurt, whole milk, and formula even come close in terms of fat, but breast milk still beats them.

If you still have a mindset from the 1990s that fat is bad, abandon it now, at least (especially) in terms of your growing child. Little developing brains require ample amounts of fat to grow. Fortunately for breastfeeding mamas, breast milk has just the right proportion and type of fats to feed baby brains. You can see from the chart at the bottom of this journal extract that the fat in breast milk increases the longer a mother breastfeeds, to ensure that a toddler who's eating more and more complementary foods will still get the needed fat. Pretty cool the way our bodies are designed that way, huh?

Breast milk helps ensure that your kids get the right kind of nutrients as well. It's sadly easier for babies and toddlers who depend on solid foods for all nutrition to get some of those calories from convenient junk foods that aren't as nutritious. It also might be surprising to note that it's easier to overfeed babies and toddlers who eat primarily solid foods than who eat breast milk. If you're still concerned that your nursing-happy baby isn't eating enough, consider that mothers who breastfeed are less likely to control how much their children eat, and breastfed children are more likely to eat to satiety and then stop.

When breastfeeding, you don't even have to over-worry about what you as the mama eat. I mean, you should prioritize whole and healthful foods to make your milk as whole and healthful as you can, but consider that even if you yourself survive on french fries and huckleberry ice cream for a time (ahem), your body will prioritize making sufficient nutritious breast milk, even if it's at your body's expense (which, admittedly, is another reason to eat healthfully yourself as a nursing mother, but I'm not one to judge, trust me!).

So if your baby or toddler seems more interested in breastfeeding than solids, or if your nursling's choice of solids seems woefully limited, just keep on nursing and rest assured that essential fats, proteins, calories, micronutrients, and (bonus!) immunological benefits are being passed along from you to your picky eater. What a relief, and what a joy!

How does or did your nursing child handle solid foods? What are your favorite joys of breastfeeding?

By writing these posts about solid food and children, I'm seeking only to reassure parents with an unreasonable degree of nervousness over variations in solids consumption by normal, healthy infants and toddlers. But please remember I'm a blogger, not a health professional or scientist (despite my unholy love of Google Scholar). If you have concerns about your child's diet or weight gain, please consult someone qualified to help your child with a personal evaluation.

Photo courtesy dennyschmickle on flickr (cc)



Enjoy these posts from our other carnival participants:

I'll be adding more throughout the day Mar. 22.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

AP Carnival, cosleeping contest, & bonus nonsense

messy face toddlerThe Attachment Parenting Carnival is up!

Feed With Love and Respect Blog Carnival


My post on "Feeding with respect: Stopping when they're full" is up there, as are, of course, a collection of other wonderful contributions, such as from Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Authentic Parenting, Maman A Droit, Living Peacefully With Children, Happy Mothering, and more.

I won't put the specific links since I think the idea is to visit AttachmentParenting.org. So, go do that, and enjoy!



Mikko has a fear-based obsession with Humpty Dumpty. I didn't introduce him to this rhyme, but he saw it Humpty Dumpty 2009 Hallmark Ornamentsomewhere or other — I sometimes wonder why we consider certain rhymes and stories appropriate for children. Mikko's obsession might have to do with his own propensity to clumsiness (I mean, he's 2!), but he's much taken with — and frightened by — the story of the egg that fell and could never again be repaired. Whenever he sees something fall or teeter, he turns to me and says, "Like Humpy Dumpy!"

Funny enough, though, his preschool teacher just told us that Mikko's balance is much improved. Such is 2-year-old development, hey? I have actually been encouraging him to walk along logs and parking curbs, but I swear we were not otherwise running him through an intensive balance-improvement regimen.

Mikko would probably appreciate it, though. You don't want to end up "like Humpy Dumpy."



There is a pretty stinking cool cosleeping contest going on right now. It's open to writers who support cosleeping — bloggers and non-bloggers alike.

The creators of the book Are You Co-Sleeping? Me Too! are looking for some short "feel good" essays to head seven of the chapters. The essays need to be 250 words max (short!) and on one of these seven topics:

  1. Oppression or negativity you've received (Mother-in-law, parents, media, doctors, general society).
  2. How bed-sharing helped your parenting experience.
  3. How it helped extend breastfeeding duration.
  4. How you got better sleep.
  5. A Dad’s perspective, written by a Dad.
  6. How it saved your child’s life.
  7. How you intended to use a crib, and chose not to.

The seven winning essays will be included in the book when it's released next month, and one Humanity Family Bed Co Sleeping Padgrand-prize winner will receive a Humanity Family Sleeper cosleeping pad. I totally wanted one of those when I started cosleeping, but finances being what they were... It's a $200 value, so all in all, these are some pretty sweet prizes.

The contest is open internationally, and you submit the entry directly to them, so you don't need your own blog.

Go to www.CosleepingSurvey.com and submit your entry by Mar. 23.



You know how I resolved to stop swearing around Mikko?

I don't think I've been doing too badly, but Mikko's still picked up the odd phrase here and there, which he delights in repeating — cheerfully and loudly.

Lately Sam's been helping him morph objectionable phrases into new, innocuous ones, which he will then repeat just as delightedly as the inappropriate version.

My favorite?

"Just a buck!"



Hudson Baby 6-Piece Rainforest Layette Set - Green, 0-3 MonthsWell, I intended to include a couple more news items, but I was sorting through baby clothes to lend to a friend who's due this summer with her first, and a certain 2-year-old wanted to help me sort his old clothes and try them on his babies, and ... well, long story short, there are baby clothes everywhere.

Talk to you later!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hobo Mama: The book?

notebook journal and pen for a writer


Hey, anyone wanna do my homework for me? Of course, you do!

Thanks in advance.

When you win NaNoWriMo, you get a coupon code for a free proof copy of a self-published book at CreateSpace.com.

CreateSpace is a print-on-demand publisher, meaning you submit a digital copy of your book (in PDF) and they print out a professionally bound copy every time someone orders one. The price is very reasonable, making my free proof copy kind of a moot point, but I'm a sucker for a freebie.

Last year, I used my coupon to print up a collection of twenty years of my poetry, just to have it around to pass on to my kid(s) and to hand out to family.

Since that's been done, what am I going to do with this year's free proof copy?

Well, I was thinking: Maybe some sort of Hobo Mama book!

But I'm stumped, and that's where you come in. I can't think of a good topic for the book.

If this were strictly an essay or a photo site, I could collect my posts as-is or with minimal editing. But there's so much variety, in terms of tone and subject matter and format that I can't imagine how to make a cohesive book by just copying and pasting.

I'm thinking I'm going to have to do some hard work and write something, more or less, from scratch. But what?

And I don't want to work too hard. I don't want to sound super lazy right off the bat here, but I have only till the end of June to finish this sucker, so it can't be research-intensive or require a million interviews. I'd rather it be something I can just write from the gut.

Who's the audience? I have no idea. Some of that will depend on the topic. My poetry book's audience was a personal and limited one. But for this book, it could be much broader. The audience could be my readers, or it could even extend out from there.

Here are some ideas I've had so far, but please chime in with brilliant new ones, because I'm not blown away by anything I've come up with:

  • How to be a Hobo Mama: A primer on getting started with natural parenting — birth, babywearing, cloth diapers, gentle discipline, etc. This wouldn't be (couldn't be) comprehensive, more of a hand-out-at-baby-showers sort of book to spark some ideas of alternative ways to parent.
  • Life of a Hobo Mama: My personal experiences with natural parenting so far, replete with my own photographs so I don't have to worry about copyright permissions.
  • Book on a specific natural-parenting topic, such as breastfeeding or babywearing. What, exactly? I haven't the faintest idea. Help!
  • Children's book, on something crunchy. Long-term breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. Ooo—maybe A Day in the Life of a Hobo Baby. Does anyone do illustrations?
  • Songbook of children's songs about breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping, etc. Would require writing said songs. I would also like to record them, which would require recording space. Maybe this is too ambitious for a June deadline.
  • Something else I'm not thinking of?

Thank you for your editorship! No idea will be discounted. Clearly mine are stupid, so don't feel shy. Please pitch your ideas on over here!

And if I do write a book, let me know if you want to be one of the early feedback readers for a free proof copy of your own.

Blog2Book hobo mama book first page


And if it so happens that you want to make your blog into a book, I've done a rundown of some available blog-to-book options at LaurenWayne.com. Hope you find it helpful as you, too, explore FAME and FORTUNE in print!!

Top photo courtesy Chris Greene on stock.xchng

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Hobo baby

Hobo Baby with train conductor's hat and harmonica


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm too annoyed with the New York Times to pay attention to my child

New York Times mommy blogger illustration by Henning WagenbrethThere's a lot of bloggy kerfluffle over the mommy blogger article in the New York Times. In case you were thinking it wasn't condescending and misogynistic, gawk with me at the title:

Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.


Stand agog at the illustration, showing mommies transfixed by screens to the detriment of their screeching children.

Wince at the snarky wording slathered throughout: "Heed the speaker’s advice, and you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial!"

Witness in disbelief its inclusion not in the business section, not in technology, but … wait for it … Fashion & Style.

But don't take my word for it.

Check out these rebuttals that are doing a more eloquent job of saying what I think than I could reproduce here:

Mom-101: Honey, Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Writing a Mildly Annoyed Letter to the New York Times.

I guess it could also have been titled "Honey Don't Bother Mommy. I'm Making Ends Meet for Our Family in a Tough Economy" but that doesn't seem as enticingly condescending. Also, then it would have to go in the business section and not fashion + style and that would just mess up everything!

... I wish it had opened with the yearning of bloggers for the community to return to good writing, and the evidence that in the end, that's mostly what pays off... .

However I'm afraid that in our ADD world, most readers won't get much past the opening snark, which continues to affirm all the negativity surrounding the word mommyblog. In other words, more silly mommies and their silly "expensive hobby."
Liz talks, fairly, about what was right in the article, too. But she finishes with an inspiring list of all the varied and honorable actions mom bloggers have taken, from partnering with colleagues stricken by family sorrows to heading up charity drives to promoting healthcare to influencing politicians.

Kelby Carr: Newspaper Bias Against Mom Bloggers

Kelby discusses why it is entirely appropriate for women to try to earn money (how utterly sad that this needs to be said) and points out all the ways the traditional media has been and still is trying to marginalize women.
Why is it so shocking that moms would discuss something besides parenting? How ridiculous. Why was this even in the Style section? If it were a tech conference for men the tone would be entirely different. ...

Yes, mom blogging is an industry. It isn’t something cute we adorable widdle mommies do to share diaper stories. Whether we’re making money or not ( mostly not), it is an industry. There are plenty of industries in which many workers in it make little or no money, such as writing, fine art and acting.

...

We are trying to make a living by creating content, and for that we get demeaned, criticized, talked down to, made fun of, and stereotyped as unethical money and swag grabbing whores.

Raising My Boychick: This is kyriarchy in action: the New York Times on "Mommy bloggers"

This is perhaps the most salient objection to the article.
But in addition to portraying that group offensively, as vapid and concerned more with appearance than parenting, more with parenting-as-competition than politics and cultural change, this leaves out vast numbers of bloggers who are women with children. It leaves out those of us who are not white. It leaves out those of us who are more concerned with getting food on the table than getting it all organically grown. It leaves out those of us who are not straight, not married, not male partnered, not partnered all all, or partnered with more than one other. And it leaves out those of us who are trying to build a revolution instead of, or along with (as though that were such a sin?), a brand.


I hope you'll click over and read all the response articles through, because my quotes only scratch the surface of their messages.

I'll just focus on one aspect of the Times article:

Whereas so-called mommy blogs were once little more than glorified electronic scrapbooks, a place to share the latest pictures of little Aidan and Ava with Great-Aunt Sylvia in Omaha, they have more recently evolved into a cultural force to be reckoned with. Embellished with professional graphics, pithy tag lines and labels like “PR Friendly,” these blogs have become a burgeoning industry...

I hate that all mommy blogs (and I hate that term with all of my being) are being tarred with the same brush. Are all blogs by men daddy blogs? Are they all the same in tone, in content, in readership, in style? It's ridiculous.

I have no problem with giveaway blogs; I enter giveaways on them. I run one myself. But it seems like that's the type of blog this article is describing, and it's grossly unfair to extrapolate from one type of mom blog to all blogs by women about parenting.

It speaks to what Arwyn at Raising My Boychick is talking about, as well.

Because I read plenty of parenting blogs that do not fit the stereotype outlined in the article. (Let's set aside for the moment that some of the blogs who fit the stereotype's broadest strokes are much more nuanced than the stereotype as well.)

I read parenting blogs by men. I read parenting blogs by people are trying to keep their blogs small, or private. I read parenting blogs that are ad-free and whose owners have no desire to monetize or optimize SEO. I read parenting blogs whose owners wish for great financial success and put a lot of effort into creating that. I read parenting blogs by people who are Latino-American, who are African-American, who are Asian-American, who are not American at all: writers from Canada, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Aruba, Romania, and on. I read blogs in English where English is not the writer's primary language. I read bilingual blogs. I try to decipher blogs entirely in languages other than English. I read blogs by rich people and by people who can barely make ends meet and who tell me how to. I read parenting blogs by married parents and single parents, parents who are divorced, and parents in a new relationship. I read parenting blogs by lesbian parents and bisexual parents and straight parents. I read parenting blogs by raging conservatives and raging liberals and everything in between. I read blogs by parents both younger than I am and older — and some at precisely the same age. I read parenting blogs by Protestants, atheists, Mormons, Catholics, Jews, and no religion I can determine on reading. I read parenting blogs that still are a "glorified electronic scrapbook" of their children's everyday and extraordinary moments — and you know, they are glorified, as sarcastically as that adjective was originally intended. I read other categories of parenting blogs I can't even think of here.

All of these parenting blogs could be lumped into the single identity of "mommy blogs" because they are primarily by women about family. But they are not the same. They are not vapid and interchangeable.

I guess what got my goat most about this article was this sense not that it was insulting me, though it was. It was that it was insulting my fellow (mommy) bloggers — my friends.



ETA: I meant to reference the latest episode of House, which we watched last night on Hulu with me snickering all the while. It was about a blogger so obsessed with airing every detail of her life (every conversation, every decision) that she failed to connect with the person (lover) standing in front of her. Oh, noes! Extreme blogging!

I kept expecting them to find she had a disease where one of the symptoms was — an addiction to blogging! And apparently I have it, too...

So, just in general, the media is totally on target with realistic impressions of bloggers. (Ha!)

I will say I did like Julie & Julia's portrayal of blogging. The emotional curve felt real to me — but that's probably because it was based on real life!

Can anyone else think of media depictions of bloggers, well or badly done?



Hey, speaking of building my brand... [cue delirious laughter for putting this in this post, but it's stuck in my brain like a burr]

Can you (any of you) do me a favor? If you're on Facebook and have the application NetworkedBlogs or are willing to get it, go follow me on NetworkedBlogs. And, then (this is the actual favor part, though it sounds like I'm taking a long time to get to it), please click on the link that says "Author(s): Pending confirmation. Help us confirm the author."

For some reason, this lack of resolution is irritating me beyond belief.

I know some of you have already confirmed me, and I thank you muchly. I can't find any way to see who did and who didn't, so while I can send invitations to ask people to confirm me, I might be double-blitzing people who've already come through. So I thought I'd put my plea here instead. Thank you for helping soothe my irritation at NetworkedBlogs for not believing in my authorship. (For those who know I could put a widget to verify, you can see that I have one over on the right sidebar there, but it keeps failing verification. So I'm stuck bothering nice people to help me out.)

As long as you're being friendly on Facebook, might as well be my friend. You can also feel free to fan my page. Love ya!

All right. Gotta get back to SEO optimizing my tutorials and neglecting my child.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Listen to your child; question yourself

A hypothetical: Electrical storms are going to wipe out the Internet (perhaps forever). You have one day left to write about your passions: what do you want to say to the blogosphere in 300 words or less?


father and toddler on the ferry boat

If I could sum up my parenting philosophy in — well, it's me, so I won't say one word, but a few words — I would say it's about respect and exploration.

Respect is about listening to your child's needs and honoring them. Exploration is questioning how things are done and being willing to break new ground — or return to ancient.


Respect: Listen to your child


Listen to your children's needs before their arrival, preparing your body and home. When you hear your baby’s first cries, respond to expectations by holding to your skin and feeding.

As your children grow, respond empathetically to their joy, grief, pain, adventuresomeness. Don't see conflict where there is none, but honor their emotions and seek to understand.

See in them not the seed of a person but a real person already — with wants, needs, preferences, and rights. Respect those rights, and meet those needs as you are able.

You won't parent perfectly, but take even mistakes as opportunity to listen harder.

Listen to your own intuition and honor its whispers.


Explore: Question yourself


Even as you seek your intuition, it might be clouded by indoctrination into a path not honoring your children or yourself.

mother and ERGO baby toddler on the ferryThink about the way you were raised — adopt only what is beneficial.

Think about the way the culture around you treats children — research and challenge. It may be you come back to the same conclusion you started with, but at least you will know why.

Continue listening to your children — individually — and be willing to change anything, even new parenting beliefs, to meet particular needs.


You will grow, respecting yourself and honoring your children's true selves. Your children will grow, confident of your love and their foothold on this planet.

This is my passion for both of us.


This post is an entry for Mabel’s Labels BlogHer 10 Contest. Stay tuned to see if I get to go...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Long-term breastfeeding

Mama's milk breastfeeding toddlerAfter much thought and considering people's reactions to the different terms, and even getting Sam's take on the issue, I'm leaning toward "long-term breastfeeding" to describe any sort of nursing beyond a certain age of infancy, say one year old — but individual women could decide what age that is for themselves.

What do you think?

"Long-term," to me, seems very neutral — descriptive without being prescriptive. It doesn't have the same sting of abnormalcy that "extended" does to me. It doesn't have, I think, the same potential as "full-term" to sound judgmental to women who choose not to or cannot breastfeed for a long time.

It's open ended, because it could apply to a 1-year-old same as an 11-year-old. There's no implied cut-off date beyond which breastfeeding is unacceptable or implied breastfeeding minimum before which weaning is unacceptable. It can be a goal for mothers to shoot for, but they can set the specifics themselves.

For instance, for a woman in a particular parenting culture where no one breastfeeds past six months, that might be the moment she identifies herself as a long-term breastfeeder. Or if the wider breastfeeding culture changes over time where it's expected that everyone breastfeed at least two years as the WHO recommends, then maybe eventually long-term will mean past that age!

And I think it's a term I can use among my fellow long-term breastfeeding supporters to talk about the particular experience of breastfeeding a toddler and beyond.

I'm sure I'll still use "extended" and "full-term" and just plain "breastfeeding" casually, and I still love the camaraderie and meaning behind "full-term" and "child-led," but I'm thinking "long-term" might be a winner as my preferred way of referring to breastfeeding past infancy — toddlers or children.

Thank you to Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing for inadvertently turning me on to the phrase.

And a huge thank you to everyone who commented and shared stories of breastfeeding successes and perceived breastfeeding failures. It might be natural to breastfeed, but it is not always easy, and I respect every mother who tries what she can and ultimately makes whatever is the right choice for her baby, herself, and her family.

Please do let me know what you think of the phrase long-term breastfeeding. Love it, hate it, too clinical, just right?

P.S. Thank you to whoever became my 100th follower. Woot! Getting from 0 to 50 seemed to have taken forever, and getting from 50 to 100 was a blink. Funny how it snowballs like that!

Photo courtesy Chickpea. on flickr (cc)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Solids & shaming, breastfeeding & babywearing: Friday link love

breastfeeding mother and baby 8 months oldI wanted to share some of the links I've been enjoying lately. 'K? And I've included a gratuitous breastfeeding picture of Mikko, because I figured this post needed some eye candy. Yes, I just referred to myself as eye candy. Don't hate me because my breastfeeding's beautiful.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feeding with respect: Stopping when they're full

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.

toddler eating ice cream with sunglasses on

When Mikko was a baby, I was observing a Facebook comment thread of a friend of ours who had elementary-school-age children. She was bemoaning her middle child's lack of interest in eating at mealtimes. The girl was about five years old, and I had opinions on the mother's concerns but didn't feel comfortable voicing them, considering my child wasn't even eating solids yet.

But now that Mikko is two and three-quarters years old (I'm sure that three-quarters part is significant), I have no problem voicing my opinion on the matter. Mikko has been (kind of) eating (some) solids (when he wants to) for over two years now, so I feel pretty confident putting this message out there.

Let your children decide how much they want to eat.


That's my advice. As a caveat right off, it might not be applicable in certain instances. I can think of several medical conditions off the top of my head where following my advice might be dangerous, and I can think of situations where older children, not raised with such freedom, might abuse it.

So, if your child has a medical condition, don't listen to blogs more than you listen to your healthcare providers. But that second exception is why I think feeding with love and respect needs to start early with kids — and then continue steadily throughout their childhoods.

Here's are some of the guidelines from the Attachment Parenting site about AP Principle #2: Feeding with love and respect:
  • Encourage a child to follow his bodily cues for hunger and thirst, to eat when he is hungry and stop when he is full.
  • Forcing a child to eat, or to eat a certain food, is counterproductive and can lead to unhealthy eating habits and potentially eating disorders
  • Avoid the use of food as a reward or punishment, or of making food (or dessert) contingent on behavior
  • Rather than restricting access to certain foods, consider having only healthy options available in the home and allowing the child to choose
The best start to feeding a child healthily? Breastfeeding. If you can breastfeed on cue, your baby will naturally develop healthy attention to hunger cues, feeding when hungry and stopping when full. The baby's tastes will be gently nurtured as the taste of the breastmilk changes slightly when the mother eats different foods. And the baby's taste preference will be set for a whole and healthy food rather than something artificially sweetened.

This is not to say that bottle-feeding parents cannot help their children develop the same cues, just that breastfeeding on cue makes it happen automatically. It also, at least in my case, helps the parents lessen their control over when, for how long, and how much their child eats, because breastfeeding is entirely up to the child. When solids are introduced, these same gentle principles can be extended to keep solid-food eating just as healthy and respectful as breastfeeding.

So, back to the mother I was dying to counsel. Here was the situation. Her five-year-old was a skinny thing — not unhealthy, just naturally waif-like, and dissimilar to the rest of the family, who were otherwise stout. I think the mother had gotten used to her other family members' eating habits and was unwilling to accept that her middle daughter might have different caloric needs.

The mother wanted her daughter to eat at certain prescribed times, and to eat a certain amount and variety of food. She tried to limit her daughter's snacking and juice drinking beforehand; she tried to cajole her into eating the foods she'd prepared for the meal; she set restrictions on which foods must be eaten followed by reward foods (dessert) if the rules were followed; she was considering punishment if the proper foods were not eaten.

I wanted to tell her: Loosen up. Your child's thin, and that's ok. She's not unhealthy, just different from you. She has a small stomach and a small appetite, and there's no need to force her to eat when she's not hungry.

What I feared most was the probable effects all this mealtime wrangling would have on the girl: She would either learn to overeat, which was not otherwise her natural inclination, or she would react ever more negatively against her mother's coercion and develop deep-rooted aversions to mealtime and to certain foods.

I wanted to shout at the mother, in the Facebook thread: Your daughter is physically and emotionally healthy; she is not going to die from ingesting too few calories! She will eat if she is hungry!

For what it's worth, I'd eaten dinner at their house. The food they served was healthy and delicious. I think if they let their daughter choose her fare, she would make it just fine.

I did not tell the mother this, but I will tell you. If you have a young baby, give the best start by breastfeeding on cue or practicing "bottle nursing." As your child begins solids, consider a baby-led approach to solids rather than following outmoded guidelines of so much mushy purees at such and such an age. Particularly if your child is breastfeeding, it's perfectly fine if the majority (or, seriously, all) of the calories come from breastmilk for the entire first year.

Likewise, if your baby wants to continue breastfeeding past six months, past a year, past two years — why not! Breastmilk is still a beneficial food well into toddlerhood and even the preschool years. Again, follow your child's cues and your own (positive) intuitions and don't let cultural norms sway you from doing what you and your child desire. The Clean Plate Club we can do away with, and the idea that only young infants need breastfeeding can also go away, thank you.


Our experience

I want to give you some real-life experience with "aberrant" solids eating behavior and weight gain, so you can see I'm not someone whose child learned to eat along some idealized curve and now thinks no one else should be worried because they must also have perfectly normal children.

But, no, no — we have a freak. And I say that in the lovingest way possible.

Mind if I take you through a photo journey of baby food and baby fat? If you don't feel like seeing a bajillion hilarious pictures of my pudgy child, feel free to skip to the end.


ALTTEXT
Mikko weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces, at birth. Yup. And he was totally, completely normal and healthy. Just, you know, big. (And the birth was fine, too, thanks for thinking of me.)

four month old chunky baby
Here he is at barely four months old, still absolutely tremendous. Go ahead, laugh. I snicker when I see it. At the time, I was so busy defending that he was completely normal that I missed the evidence that he was hilariously humongous. But healthy!

very big roly poly baby
For instance... No, seriously, get a load of those rolls! That is some awesome bulkage right there. And that's nearly all from breastmilk at that age, eight months old.

one year old baby standing up
Here he is at a year old, finally pulling that bulk to standing! He sat early (his large bum was very stabilizing!) but walked rather late — but now is just fine, thank you very much! (Except for the balance thing, which is to be expected.)

two year old lanky boy
And here he is at two years old, still weighing the same as he did at about eleven months, but suddenly much taller. Look — skinny legs! Still healthy, still active. Granted, he still has a huge head, but that's genetic, too.

breastfed baby growth chart 10 months
Here is Mikko's growth chart, from when he was 10 months old. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ohhh, I never get tired of the hilarity. The top is height, and you can see his purple line that generally follows the top percentile curve. The bottom is weight. You can see his heftiness broke free of the confines of the chart. Take that, chart!



Here's a little trip through his solid food adventures:

baby eyeing fondue
One sign of solids readiness? A fascination with your grown-up food! Six-month-old Mikko eyes the Christmas fondue.

baby eating broccoli
Trying out broccoli — most of it ended up outside, and that's ok. Early solids, especially when practicing a baby-led version, is all about exploration of tastes and textures, not ingesting a significant amount of calories. And remember: Their stomachs are still very small!

baby eating pickle
Pickle or ice cream? Babies can't tell the difference, apparently.

baby spitting out banana
Ill-met attempt by my parents to spoon feed Mikko mushed banana. My mom insisted on trying. Mikko insisted on projectile vomiting on my dad. (Not pictured. Sam and I were too busy laughing.) Some babies have very sensitive gag reflexes, which is why letting them take solids at their own pace is beneficial.

baby tasting lemon
Baby's first taste of lemon. Don't be afraid to let kids try foods you find unappealing. They can sort out their tastes for themselves. I try not to give Mikko cues that he "should" or "shouldn't" like a particular food. He has eaten lemon since, if you were wondering!

messy baby enjoying cauliflower
Enjoying mashed cauliflower (a tasty and nutritious substitute for mashed potatoes), mashed all over his face

18 month old baby eating sushi
Relishing sushi at eighteen months old

toddler enjoying smoked salmon
Scarfing down smoked salmon

toddler feeding himself yogurt
Contemplatively covered in yogurt. Letting kids feed themselves, even if it's messy, helps them learn fine motor skills AND develop their attention to hunger cues. It also makes them feel more included at family meal times when they have their own utensils and dishes.

baby breastfeeding 8 months old
Start out breastfeeding and lay the groundwork for a healthy attitude toward eating.

Reading and breastfeeding a toddler
Keep at it, and your growing child will continue developing his healthy eating style!


Seriously, Mikko still has days when all he eats is breastmilk. And you know what? I trust that that's what he needs on those days. Often it's because he's not feeling well and his body knows it needs the extra antibodies. Other days he wolfs down everything solid in sight, and asks for more, and that's fine, too.

We've been babysitting some other kids recently, and I've been amazed at how much they put away. They're skinnier and younger than Mikko, and they eat three times as much as he does, solids-wise. I don't believe they're still being breastfed, though I'm not sure. It doesn't worry me, though. I know some people would still consider Mikko to be fat, but he's just right for himself. Others might worry that he hasn't put on any weight in the past two years, but I'm not concerned. He piled it on fast and furious right at the start, as breastfed babies are wont to do, and it's completely natural for growth to slow way down in the second year and beyond. I mean, if he'd kept at the pace he'd started, he wouldn't fit in the house anymore!

So there you are. If my kid were on the lighter side, I'd be telling you the same thing. Again, barring medical condition, children — like adults (duh!) — are a range of sizes. Someone has to be on the lower end, and someone has to fill those upper percentiles. It's fine if you or your kid are in one or the other of those camps.

Feed your child the way you'd want to be fed: with autonomy, with empathy, with healthful choices, and, most of all, with trust. The rest will work out just fine.

Here are some links you might find helpful:

How has feeding your baby, toddler, or child gone for you? Are there any eating issues are you trying to avoid passing on to your children?