Friday, July 30, 2010

Rants: The Truth in Cliches

I'm sure we've all come across a cliche that we found to be so incredibly true that we wished when it was spoken it was felt more deeply. Of course because it is a cliche it is used more colloquially than with deep feeling.

Well, the cliche that touches my heart is this: "they grow too quickly". And it is so true! Where is that tiny baby that I gave birth to? The one whose entire body would fit in my arms with ease? The one who knew only mother and father and the world around her was foreign and uninteresting? Where is my tiny baby girl?

I know the answer of course. She has grown. Quite beautifully so. She has gone from reacting to the world to interacting with it. She is a big girl now and will only get bigger, smarter, and more independent.

Even following the attachment parenting method I fear the independence. Don't get me wrong I'm happy for her to grow, to learn, to reach new milestones. And yes even to be a self independent of me... I think? At the same time I yearn for us to be one body forever. To escape to a place where I can have an infant for two years, a three-month old for another two, and to continue in this vein until I feel that I'm ready for her to be grown. If only she could be a baby for longer, so much longer.

It feels like an impending and neverending loss. I'm sure this has to do with the loss of our angel baby, that we feel loss so deeply. That we want a *baby* so deeply.

So I try and focus on the positive. Having a one year old has to have some unique fantastic lovely experiences. Right? And a toddler, a school age child, maybe even a teenager... Of course to think that far right now brings me more angst than joy. I want to hold her in my arms forever and dread the day when she will push them off her to go play outside. I know she will always come back to mommy, even as an adult, but still the thought frightens me a little and saddens me a lot.

To add to the loss of infancy we will soon be starting foods. *Sigh*. She is trying to grab them off my plate now. I want to wait as long as possible to start but it won't be much longer. I love being her only source of nourishment. That she has thrived from my body and my love for her.

So she grows! She reaches new milestones! She is a smart, healthy, beautiful growing girl! Get a grip woman! There is positive to focus on. You can't change things. She is going to get bigger, become more independent, need you less. Really I am so so happy for her. That she can do these things. That I can experience this when so many can't. I have cherished every moment and want to cherish the rest. So mom's who have been there use this as a starting point. Tell me what we have to look forward to! I fear if you don't these last few months of babyhood will be equal grief to joy. Help me stop plugging my ears when people tell me how fast she is growing!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rants: Gentle Parenting

I'm a fan of using the gentlest most compassionate method available in your toolbox. When we have mothering decisions to make I am a firm believer that we should first evaluate the decision and then choose the most gentle method available. If that method doesn't work then keep at it or seek out a support system to find other tools of compassion. I cannot back up methods that cause pain or stress for your infant.

There are gentle methods of helping with baby "problems". Spending (even) more time in close physical contact with your baby is one of them and I deeply believe it will help with a majority of the issues people proclaim to have with an infant. Now I know we all spend lots of time in contact with baby. I'm just suggesting more of that! Use it as your tool to get baby to sleep, to nap, to be less fussy instead of finding other tools to do so.

As you know I'm a reader and researcher. I also believe in natural and attachment parenting. Apparently for good reason. If you practice some attachment principles research shows you will have a baby who is less fussy and sleeps better. Instead of using methods like allowing your baby to cry you can use gentler methods that have the same outcome. I do!

Now I've heard several arguments to the contrary: that a high needs baby won't respond to these methods, that working mothers have a harder time using such methods, and that each parent chooses what works best for their family. Of course I agree there is some truth in those arguments but I don't believe they have to be contrary. You can have a high needs baby, be a working mother, and be choosing the best choice for your entire family while making the decision to choose gentle methods. I even believe that if you do you will have less baby "problems" and more happiness!

(cartoon is from The Parenting Pit another compassionate mothering blog!)

The principle is simple and it is two parts.

A. The more time you spend close to baby the more baby feels secure and thus has fewer issues going down to sleep and being less fussy in general.

B. The more you give in to the fact that your baby will cry, be fussy all day some days, be up at night for weeks at a time the better your emotional health will be and thus the better your relationship with baby and becoming less frustrated and overwhelmed.

Things to try:

1. More skin to skin contact. In our society we've created a lot of "tools" to keep baby away from us. Strollers vs slings, cribs vs. our bed, highchair vs. our lap, even baby's holding their own bottles etc...

2. Babywearing!

3. Co-Sleeping or part-time co-sleeping: An example of part-time co-sleeping would be laying next to your baby when you put him/her down for a nap until baby falls asleep.

4. Outdoor Time: Going for a Walk, Time in the Park, Etc..

5. Giving in to the idea that babies are not biologically designed to sleep through the night. Have a set-up so when you are up at night you can have fun (internet, movies, snacks, etc..).

Please feel free to comment with more ideas I can add to this list!

Here is research to back me up:

Research 1: Maternal Emotional Availability at Bedtime Predicts Infant Sleep Quality

This is a research study that is about exactly what the title says. I am research minded and to find a high quality study like this makes me feel quite happy that we are able to quantify some good quality parenting.

Research 2: "Sleeping with your baby by James McKenna" Dr. James McKenna is a leading authority on parent baby sleep. He has a Ph.D. and works from the University of Notre Dame sleep lab in which the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development fund his research.

" Human infants are more helpless than any other animal species. .. Most mammals are born with 60-90% of adult brain size. Humans are born with just 25% of adult brain size. Compared with other mammals, human infants take the longest time to grow up, and they remain in a biologically dependent state for the longest period of time...human infants are "extero-gestators, meaning they complete their gestation after birth, and someones got to be there to help with it. .. Due to this extreme developmental immaturity , babies require parental (especially maternal) smell, touch, sounds, and movement in order to feel secure and have their physical needs met at an optimal level. All primate infants, including humans, biologically expect to be in close contact and proximity with their caregivers. .. There is no such thing as giving a human infant too much contact or affection. .. When deprived of these sensations, a baby will use her primary survival response - crying - and will produce cortisol, a stress hormone, as she attempts to attract the attention of her parents."

Research 3: It is natural to feel stressed your baby is crying! As mothers we release a stress hormone when our baby cries. But the natural response is to soothe your baby not let them cry more that is why we have this hormone to trigger us to respond. It is better for both mom and baby to come together when baby is crying. The more that happens the less both parties will be stressed out.

Quote from Parenting Magazine (link above): "When a baby cries, it triggers the release of the hormone prolactin (dubbed "the mothering hormone") in moms, which creates an urge to pick up the baby and meet her needs. You're hardwired to soothe your baby, and when that doesn't happen, it can make you feel like a failure. But your baby's fussiness is not a reflection on your parenting skills - and it's completely normal for a baby to cry even when there doesn't seem to be a direct cause."

I have an infant now and cannot speak from experience to raising an older child but this is reminiscent of another issue that will be coming up soon for us mother's of babies. We must choose gentle practices now because the decisions only get more complicated as our children age. It strikes me as similar to spanking. There is a method that is non-invasive and harmful (not spanking) and then there is one that is a invasive and painful if not harmful (spanking). They both may work but why not choose the more calm, least painful, more nurturing alternative?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rants: Hold Your Baby Just a Little Bit Closer

This blog is about compassionate motherhood. And where better to start this journey than by recognizing how much a miracle, blessing, and joy our own children are? Remember that no matter how difficult parenting is you can reach inside yourself and find a little bit extra to give to your kids. So take your child and hold him/her closer for a minute today. Let them know how much you love them and let yourself be in that moment of love with your child.

Before I had any children I thought that the words "in love" were reserved for romantic notions. I have come to realize that this is not true. I can quite deeply and honestly say how in love I am with my daughter and my angel baby.

We should never take our love for granted, forget it in the midst of surmounting parenting decisions and overtiredness. Some days we are reminded that people lose their children and others ache to have some and cannot. Since our loss I have not been able to forget this lesson and today I was reminded again how life can bring both joy and pain. We are blessed beyond measure to have a child to hold and to hug. So to all the parents out there who have a child in arm's reach please hold them a little closer today. And to all the parents out there who ache to have a child or to hold a child you have lost, you are in my thoughts and in my family's prayers. Please know that I realize how blessed we are and I will forever treat my daughter with compassion. I will not take a moment for granted.
"Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being ~ Kittie Frantz"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Car Safety: Summer Car Safety

Summer is here and it is so much fun to be out and about with our babies and children! We are blessed to have these little miracles to entertain and bring us joy.

When we are trying to figure out how many diapers we've used and if a trip home is needed before we return those library books it can really be hard to think of something so mundane like the temperature in our car.

It is Hot in a Car!

My featured articles are about just how quickly it can become hot inside your car. Never leave your child or baby unattended inside a car even for a quick minute! When you have to take those groceries inside and it is just you and your little babe don't forget to get that little bundle inside before those groceries! Or if you are a skilled AP* momma you can always babywear :)

Keep in mind that small children can be rascals. All you have to do is leave them unattended a minute playing by the car when they realize they left their favorite toy inside. Next thing you know they are playing in the car w/out realizing how hot is and perhaps even trap themselves inside. When we have that mom moment "hey it's too quiet, what's wrong?" it may be too late.

The following articles address these concerns and gives us some practical safety advice:
Car Safety on a Hot Day and 4 Tips to Safety

What happens when you do make a mistake and lock your kid/baby in the car?

The obvious answer is to call 911 and please do that immediately if possible.
Although this seems like a simple answer it is not always feasible because the mom who locked her kid in the car by mistake probably locked her phone in too and there may not be anyone nearby to flag down. Also in some areas there have been incidents where the authorities refuse to come out unless the kid is unconscious. I know, how uncompassionate!

So what to do? Break a window and get that kid out of there! Break a window that is not near your child and using a window hammer and blanket is probably the safest way to do this. Now I'm not a safety expert and this information is simply what I have obtained by reading articles online and talking with moms who have been in this situation. I do know that if this were to happen to me I'd break the window. Even if you have called the authorities they may take a long time to arrive as is what happened to one lady I talked with. Remember a kid can get very hot very quickly in a locked car. You need to discuss with someone (partner, family member, support system) what you would do in this situation so that you have a plan.

Some locksmiths will come out and unlock your car for free. Pop-A-Lock is one of these locksmiths. Please see the following website to see if there is one in your location and keep their phone number in your car. They may be able to reach you faster than the authorities. Always call 911 in addition to the locksmith. And if they can't get their in time don't think twice about breaking that window.

Pop-A-Lock Child Safe Website

Thanks to my sister for the Pop-A-Lock tip!

And what if you see a baby or small child in a car alone? Please notify the authorities! You can notify them anonymously if you would like. Don't feel like you are giving that parent a tough time either. Leave it up to the experts to make the judgment call in terms of what that parent needs: a warning, a ticket, a child welfare check. Your responsibility is to that child and not the parent!

* AP refers to Attachment Parenting which is a parenting style that focuses on the emotional bond between baby and parents.
** Please note that in the picture here the straps on the car seat are not in the proper position, they should be equal with the armpits.