Tag Archives: breastfeeding

World Breastfeeding Week

It’s World Breastfeeding Week! When a friend asked me if I was going to be blogging about it, I said probably not. I’m kind of all blogged out when it comes to breastfeeding, having written for a year now at the Breastfeeding Diaries.  My monthly check-in column “Yes, We’re Still Nursing!” is just about the perfect amount of writing.  Breastfeeding is part of our normal life now, as normal as me snacking on berries, eating fresh-caught fish, or having a big glass of water by my side at all times.  It’s how we live, it just IS.

That’s not to say that I don’t think about it or talk about it.  I’ve been happy to help out some of my loved ones who are new mommies with questions about nursing and expressing.  I laugh about it, like when the UPS man encountered my nursing bra-turned-swimsuit drying on the front porch.  I’m also really proud of the fact that I have nursed Joshua every single day for the last 16 1/2 months.  That’s just amazing to me.  I wish I had that kind of endurance in other areas of my life (dieting, exercise, laundry…).  I’m very happy with how our nursing relationship is right now. I nurse Josh when we’re together and don’t worry about it when we’re apart. There’s no pumping, bottles, measuring, washing dishes, or any of the stuff that stressed me out about being a nursing, working mom.  He nurses way less now than when he was a newborn, but I’d say he probably nurses about 10 times a day, just usually for shorter periods of time.  But to me it’s no big deal. It’s just what we do. 

I’ve thought about night weaning, but I don’t think Joshua’s ready for that yet.  I do believe that he’ll wean when he’s ready, but I see no reason to push it at this point.  I joke that I have no idea how I’d ever get him to sleep without nursing, as he nurses to sleep every time he’s with me, with the exception of falling asleep in the car a few times.  Though he falls asleep fine when we’re apart. 

Over the past 16 1/2 months, I’ve lived and breathed breastfeeding.  While eating, in my sleep, in public, in private, without a cover (but sometimes with), in the bath, in the pool, at the beach, at a parade, at a tractor pull, at picnics, in a parked car, in the shade, in the sun, on the couch, lying down, walking around, sitting on the floor. Whenever, wherever.

So what’s the plan? There is no plan. I have no plans to wean him at X age, just as I have no plans to keep going until X age.  If I had to make a prediction, I’d guess that his nusing duration would be measured in years, but we’ll see.  We just go with the flow.

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Mercury Pollution: What Parents Need to Know

My dad tells a story of his science teacher handing out vials of mercury and allowing students to play with it and watch how it pools.  Those days are gone! (I should know, I’m a science teacher.)  Today, we aren’t even allowed to have mercury thermometers in school, and there are news reports of schools being evacuated due to a broken thermometer.  We now know that mercury is toxic to kids.

Mercury as an atmospheric pollutant comes mostly from power plants, with 72% of it coming from coal-fired power plants.  Once released into the atmosphere, mercury contaminates entire ecosystems: fresh and salt water, soil, the substrate at the bottoms of streams, rivers, lakes and oceans, as well as plants an animals.  Microorganisms in the water convert mercury to the highly toxic methylmercury.  Methylmercury accumulates in the tissues of animals, especially salt water fish like sharks, swordfish and tuna.

Here’s what I think all parents should know about mercury pollution:

  • 1 in 10 American women of childbearing age have potentially dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies.
  • 410,000 US children are exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in the womb each year.
  • 95% of the methylmercury we consume is absorbed through our small intestines and enters our bloodstream, which carries it to the rest of our body.  It will eventually be excreted over a period of weeks to months.
  • Methylmercury easily crosses the placenta and travels into a fetus’s blood and organs, including his or her brain.
  • Methylmercury levels in an unborn child’s blood can accumulate to be higher than the levels in his or her mother’s blood.
  • Mercury in both the form of methylmercury (from seafood) and inorganic mercury (from amalgam fillings) has been found in breast milk in studies around the world. However, the level of mercury in a mother’s blood are about 3 times higher than the level of mercury in her milk, so babies are exposed to much more mercury in utero than through breastfeeding.  Experts say that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of mercury exposure.
  • Infants can be exposed to mercury through formula if it is prepared with water contaminated with methylmercury, so experts recommend breastfeeding over formula-feeding in areas with contaminated water.
  • Methylmercury exposure leads to impaired neurological development in fetuses, infants and children.  It can also delay developmental milestones and cause severe mental disabilities.

The Clean Air Act does not currently have limits on the amount of mercury that can be emitted by power plants, but the EPA would like to set a new Mercury and Air Toxics rule to reduce the amount of mercury and other emissions by 91%.  (Learn more about the proposed rule here).  Won’t you join me in supporting the EPA’s right to limit mercury emissions? Send a comment to the EPA!

Sources:

This post will be cross-posted at Moms Clean Air Force.

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Learning to be a Mother

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Spending my days and nights with Joshua for the past ten months has taught me about myself and about how to be a mother.

My first lesson was in patience.  I always thought of myself as patient, since I’m a teacher and patience is necessary for survival, but also because I am willing to work and wait in hopes that my patience will pay off.   We may have saved for years to build our house, we may have waited five years after getting married to start a family, I may have earned multiple college degrees, but I didn’t know what real patience was until I became a mother.  Real patience, I learned, is pacing the floors in the middle of the night, rocking my baby to sleep.  Real patience is nursing my baby for four hours straight each evening for the first three months, and learning to eat my dinner with one hand (even the left one).  Real patience is changing my baby’s diaper or clothes or my own clothes for the fifth or sixth or seventh time that day, before noon.  Real patience is what enabled me to do these things quietly, calmly, even happily.

I also learned to trust my instincts.  Experts, both respected and self-proclaimed, are contstantly telling me how to feed my son, how often to pick him up, what to dress him in, how to lay him down to sleep, how to get him to sleep through the night, when to start solids, when he should reach each milestone.  After some self-doubt early on, I realized that nobody knows my baby better than I do.  So far, my instincts have led me to breastfeed on-cue exclusively for the first six months, nurse in public, cosleep, respond to my baby’s cries, hold or wear my baby, feed him real foods, and allow him to achieve milestones on his own developmental timeline.  I’ve learned to smile, nod, and discard advice that doesn’t meld with my instincts.

Finally, in these last ten months I’ve learned what it means to love a child.  I always knew what it was like to love my parents, siblings, other family members, friends, and of course my husband, but I now know what the love of a mother for her baby feels like.  It is unconditional, unwavering.  I understand why mothers in nature can be the most formidable, fearless, and dangerous protectors of their babies.  My resolve to live sustainably has strengthened since becoming a mother, since I see it as an extension of protecting my son and providing for his future.  Joshua owns my heart and my soul.

P.S. This is my 800th post!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

 

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A Day in the Life of a Working Mom

2:00 am- Joshua nuzzles me, looking to nurse. I nurse him and he goes back to sleep. He wakes and nurses about every 15 minutes for the next two hours. I’m awake the whole time.

Continue reading at the Breastfeeding Diaries…

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Baby-Led Weaning with Real Food

As an advocate for real, healthy, local foods, I was dreading introducing solids to my son.  I just couldn’t imagine having his first food be processed cereal.  I’d also seen jarred baby food and was completely grossed out by it.  Nobody could tell me that those were the best choice for my son’s health; my instincts said we needed to take a different route.  After discussing the topic of introducing solids with some twitter friends, I got recommendations for two books that I love and recommend to all parents:

What I learned was basic- to allow Joshua to choose what he would eat and what he didn’t want to eat; to allow him to feed himself; to offer him plenty of healthy foods to choose from; to put away the food mill and spoon; most importantly, to relax!

Instead of giving bland cereal as a first food, I looked to the season.  Joshua turned six months in September: apple season.  It has always felt appropriate to me that Joshua was a spring baby, and it seemed fitting that Joshua’s first food was applesauce.  Homemade, chunky applesauce made from apples grown on the farm where I grew up, that I picked as I walked through the orchard with my mother and carried Joshua on my back.  While processed cereal didn’t feel right, applesauce sure did.  I spooned a small bit of applesauce into a bowl for Joshua and allowed him to squish it between his fingers to his heart’s content.  He wiped it in his hair and it got on his bib and on the floor.  Not much made it into his mouth, but that didn’t matter.  Breast milk supplies all of the nutrition he needs, and solids at six months are about learning: taste, texture, aroma and hand-eye coordination.

Cold apple slices quickly became a favorite for my teething baby.

Now nine months old, Joshua has sampled all of the following (in no particular order):

  • Fruits: apples, applesauce, banana, avocado, blueberries, raspberries, cranberry-applesauce, dried papaya
  • Veggies: butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, snap peas, green beans, corn, green squash, cucumber, vegetable broth, salsa, tomato sauce, (sometimes veggies were topped with olive oil or butter)
  • Meats: beef (steak, ground beef), pork (pork chop/roast, sausage), turkey (roasted and ground), chicken, salmon, haddock, scrambeled eggs
  • Dairy: cream-top yogurt (banana, blueberry and peach flavored), sour cream, cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, American cheese, cream cheese, butter
  • Bread/grains: toast, pizza crust, whole wheat tortilla, bagel, pasta with and without tomato sauce, Italian bread, pancakes, stuffing, organic puffs and teether biscuits

And most certainly other foods that I’ve forgotten to mention.  At his nine-month check-up, his doctor was impressed that we don’t buy baby food and told me to continue to introduce foods using the baby-led approach.  The doctor said most advice about solids including which foods to offer in which order are based on old wive’s tales and not on sound science, and that holding off on introducing foods such as meats can deprive babies of essential nutrients (like iron, which is more easily absorbed from breastmilk and meats than from fortified cereals).  The only foods he said to wait on are peanuts and peanut butter, honey and cow’s milk.  (For safety information on introducing solids, see the books listed above.)

Joshua loves to feed himself and while this approach is messy, it has been a perfect fit for our family.

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Baby Weight

When I see this picture of me at age 20, I can’t help but wonder: Will my tummy ever be that flat again?

I didn’t gain an inordinate amount of weight with my pregnancy: the 40 pounds that I put on was within the healthy range for weight gain. After losing about 25 pounds in the first few weeks after giving birth to Joshua, I assumed the rest of the weight would melt off and I’d be below my pre-pregnancy weight in no time, especially since I was planning to exclusively breastfeed.

Continue reading at the Breastfeeding Diaries…

A week before Joshua was born

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