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How to Have a Great Milk Supply

...even if your breasts are small, even if you have twins, even if you're worried.

The secret to an abundant milk supply is frequent, active feeds. For newborns and even many older babies, this usually means 12-16 feeds in 24 hours. When weight gain is steady, predictable and feedings are easier, it's ok to drop to 8-12 feeds in 24 hours, if your baby is content doing so.

Pay attention to the baby's sucking and behavior.

When babies are rooting or looking hungry, they probably need to breastfeed, even if they don't need to "eat." If you aren't sure, it's fine to offer your breast. You can't overfeed a breastfed baby! We aren't used to breastfed babies and often moms will compare breastfed babies with formula fed babies who typically eat every 3 or 4 hours.

If we remember that a baby's stomach is the size of their fist and that breastmilk is digested easily, it makes sense that they would eat frequently. But why is this important? For one, humans are species that carries its babies. Frequent feeding is easy to accomplish when you carry your baby everywhere you go.

Another reason is that breastfeeding is so much more than food for a baby. It's a source of comfort, connection and soothing. It is a way of feeding that fills all five senses at once and gives both mother and baby a dose of oxytocin, the love hormone.

When we look at other species, it's easier to understand the unique qualities of human milk. 

Cows grow about 1000 pounds in the first year. Their milk is highest in protein because this is the essential nutrient for muscle and bone growth. Whales live in the ocean, which is cold. In order to thrive, they have a thick layer of blubber. Their milk is highest in fat.

Humans develop their brains during the first year. Human milk is full of special sugars that feed brain cells. In addition, constant engagement with the mother means that with every feed, their brain is connecting neural pathways. Breastfeeding means that babies smell, taste, see, hear, and feel their mom. Each sip is not just a sip! It is a brain-bursting experience! 

Don’t wait to feed!

One of the biggest misconceptions I run into is "waiting for breasts to fill up" before you feed your baby. The fastest way to make abundant milk is to keep your breasts empty. Empty breasts signal your body to make milk while full ones tell your body to stop making milk.

It's like being at a buffet. When the serving dishes get low, a waiter keeps bringing new ones. If no one eats anything, the tray just sits there. Your body will continue reabsorbing and producing fresh milk, so, unlike the buffet, the milk is always fresh and ready to eat, but over time, you will make less and less milk. Your baby may show signs of hunger and be less content. Their weight will plateau or drop.

In the early days and months, you will feel your breasts filling and emptying. Between 4 and 6 months, the amount of milk you make between feeds decreases. In other words, you won't feel as full. Your body starts to make most of the milk when the baby sucks, rather than between feeds.

Increasing your milk without pumping or galatagogues

If your baby doesn’t seem hungry, and also, is not gaining or only slowly gaining weight, increase the number of feeds in every day using a "mother led growth spurt." Many babies actually prefer to feed every hour or two all the way through the first year and beyond. A good rule of thumb is if your baby is gaining weight and staying on their curve, 8-12 feeds a day is fine. If they aren’t gaining, or they seem to need more, nurse 12-16 times in 24 hours.

A practice that goes along with this is switching sides frequently. A sleepy baby can suckle gently on one side for an hour and receive little or no measurable milk. If you watch them feeding and switch sides soon after they are done gulping, they will receive more milk with less effort. You may feed on each side several times and notice that each time, their sucking happens in short bursts and then slows down.

If your baby suddenly seems hungry after a few weeks of predictable feeding, follow their cues and feed as much as they want - it's normal and nothing to worry about - it's called "frequency days" or "growth spurts". After a few days of nursing more frequently, you should notice more fullness in your breasts and hear more swallowing when they breastfeed.

Worrying about having enough milk may be the #1 worry of all new mothers! 

Research shows that only 1 to 3% of women should worry about it! The first step, and frequently the shortcut, to a bountiful supply of milk is to offer your baby the breast frequently and encourage your baby to drink as much milk as they can. If you are worried, ask for guidance so that you can be really sure your baby is getting enough milk.

Conventional advice of nursing 10-20 minutes on each side is correct in one way- most babies do nurse about this long - but it does not take into account the QUALITY of the session. Watch the baby - when they are getting milk, you should hear gulping, see the jaw moving. and feel a rhythmic pull on your nipple.

How frequently you feed your baby is always the first benchmark to compare if you feel you need to increase the amount of milk you make.

If you feel anxious, check your baby's weight once a week. Ask to make an appointment at your pediatrician’s office, buy a scale or drop in to New Baby New Paltz any time we are open. We have a scale next to the changing table and a 3 ring notebook if you want to keep a chart.

 

Understanding Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are a cry for help.

A child is totally overwhelmed and needs support. Unfortunately, few parents received support for their strong feelings as children or learned basic skills for working through a tantrum. The opportunity during a tantrum is to develop an understanding of what the child is experiencing.  Children have their own perspective on any event. A parent’s job is to help them cope with the crushing frustration and disappointment inherent in life.

The life cycle of a tantrum:

The child is trying to say, hear, receive, give, or do a certain thing.  If he is unable to complete the action he may get frustrated and start to show signs of distress. When a parent is  in tune with their  child they will pick up these early cues and help the child complete the action. If the parent misses these early cues, the child will amplify the frustration into crying, yelling, hitting or other obvious demonstrations in an attempt to get help.

In an infant, this might be a fussy baby.  The mother notices her baby squirming and fussing and starts to nurse the baby.  The tantrum is averted.  For a toddler, there might be a staircase that is attracting his attention.  The toddler can’t quite negotiate the stairs and starts to get frustrated. His dad stands behind him and directs his feet until his son is climbing safely. In a school age child, an older brother teases his younger sister, who can’t keep up with his verbal gymnastics.  She starts to yell, their mother steps in between them and affirms that the sister is furious because she is being teased. She holds a safe space and waits until everyone is calm. Then, she deals with the brother’s inappropriate behavior.

When the pre-tantrum cues are missed

The parent can still handle a tantrum with love and support. It can be a challenge to negotiate the strong feelings that come out in a tantrum. Tantrums can trigger the parent’s un-met childhood needs and can result in parents acting like children. When a parent is aware of this phenomenon, she can step back, center herself and resume the appropriate adult role. 

Step by step, here are some things parents can try: 

Stay calm, detached, and nearby--offering support as needed. (as well as protection from sharp edges, siblings, traffic, etc.) the parent may have to physically restrain or remove the child to prevent him from hurting himself and others. If the parent finds herself getting upset, it is better to make sure the child is safe, leave the room and calm down. If this is not possible, she should stop talking and breathe deeply. If this is not possible, she should try again next tantrum. She will handle tantrums better with each attempt.

The parent can reassure the child that she really wants to understand what is wrong. Help him to calm down. Only when he is reasonably calm should the parent continue. If he gets upset again, return to calming techniques.

Ask him what happened, and listen.

Listen for the facts (the situation) and listen for the feeling (the emotion.)

If he can't verbalize it, make suggestions and watch his body language for cues that you are on the right track. It may help for the parent to imagine herself in the child’s place.  Once the parent has identified the trigger, she can help the child to understand it. Common triggers are the inability to do a task or loss of a favorite toy. Other triggers are fears, punishment and separation from the parent. Aggravating factors can be exhaustion, hunger, and loud public places.

Once it seems like the parent has figured out what caused the tantrum, she can help her child to say, hear, receive, give or do what he was unable to pre-tantrum or help him work through his disappointment at not being able to say, hear, give, receive, or do it.

Babies and children have the same feelings as adults.

They want things they can't have and suffer disappointment. They are put in situations where they are scared and can't leave. Life is not perfect; some things in life are necessary and painful. It is the parent’s job to put that suffering into a context the child can understand. Parents can help their children share a negative feeling before it turns into negative behavior. 

It is important for children to learn that all feelings are appropriate and negative behaviors are not. Hitting and scratching are never acceptable and the limit must be set firmly by the parent. While some kids take a lot longer to learn how to do this, they learn because the adults in their life remind them and model this behavior. 

When a parent models great behavior, it is her opportunity to shine as a human being. Her child will learn how to behave like a better human being. Children watch their parents like hawks, mimicking their every action. A conscientious parent will attend first to her own actions and words when she witnesses her child doing something inappropriate. Her calmness will automatically help her child to behave appropriately without punishment or bad feelings.

Originally published in “Blender” La Leche League of New York-East

Is this a Nursing Strike?

"Hey, so all of the sudden my three month won't eat. He won't take my breast and if he does it's a very short feed. He screams if I even put him in the position. I have milk and it's leaking out- even shooting out now because I'm so full. I tried a bottle with a slow nipple- he took some and then started crying. He has NEVER been like this before. He loves breastfeeding and his weight is great - 20 pounds at 3 months. He is an awesome eater and I'm worried. Should I call the pediatrician? He's arching his back, do you think he has reflux? I'm worried because of the lack of wet diapers. He needs to eat and I feel like I am going to burst!"

While, their might be a few things happening here, the first thing to start with is your baby's refusing to nurse which is called a nursing strike. 

A nursing strike is when a baby suddenly refuses to breastfeed. You might think a baby is weaning themselves but if they are younger than 12-18 months, that is unlikely. In addition, most babies gradually wean off breastfeeding before they stop completely. 

During a nursing strike, sometimes it is obvious why they stopped and more often, it takes detective work to figure out why.  Stay calm. Since his weight is great, you have a cushion of time. He's not going to starve or dehydrate if he doesn't nurse for a half a day or a day.  You, on the other hand will be very uncomfortable, so express milk to prevent engorgement and plugged ducts. You may need to pump several times to bring relief.

When a baby is refusing to breastfeed, you will make faster progress if you accept that there is a very good reason (in his mind, anyway) to NOT breastfeed. Don't fight that and don't force breastfeeding. Take a longer term view stay optimistic and keep trying.

So, if a baby has a very good reason, why do babies go on nursing strikes?

Babies strike for many reasons. What often happens is that something startled or bothered him while he was nursing and he got scared. He's afraid it will happen again. Therefore, if he doesn't nurse, it won't happen and he won't be scared! 

Think back and see if you can remember what might have happened just before he started refusing. Was there a loud noise? Did he bite you? Did you yell?

If you can figure out what it is, talk your baby through the event. Apologize if you did something that scared him. Explain what happened and try to coax him back onto the breast by reassuring him that it won't happen again. That you are his mommy and will protect him.

Maybe he's sick?

If he has an ear infection or a sore throat, nursing may be painful. Sometimes babies gag on a forceful letdown of milk.  Sometimes there's a new smell they don't like, like a new detergent, soap or deodorant. 

If he will not nurse, just keep him skin to skin. Try breastfeeding again when he's sleeping or drowsy. Try taking a bath together and see if that relaxes both of you into breastfeeding. Keep snuggling skin-to-skin, and keep offering without any pressure! Your attitude should be one of coaxing or seducing them back to breastfeeding. Making it their choice, not your will.

New or Old Patterns?

You may find settling into a favorite position helps or you may find just the opposite. Try different and unfamiliar positions to break the pattern.

If it continues more than 12 hours, offer a bottle or cup of breastmilk. If he refuses milk for more than a day, it's probably a good idea to see the doctor to rule out injury or illness.

How Much Does a Lactation Consultant Cost?

The answer to this question depends on several factors: 

1.What are the qualifications of the Lactation Consultant?

2. What do you need help with? 

3. Do you have health insurance or low-income qualifications?

Because "Lactation Consultant" is not a professional license recognized by the New York State Board of Regents, there is no Lactation Consultant license in New York (or most states), which means that anyone can say they are a Lactation Consultant. Most Lactation Consultants get a certificate from an organization showing their level of training, but there is no requirement that they do so.

So, it's a good idea to interview several Lactation Consultants before you select one and these questions can help you know which one can help you best.

  1. What is your certification?
  2. What is your professional training in helping moms and babies?
  3. Where have you worked as a Lactation Consultant?
  4. How long have you been a Lactation Consultant?
  5. Do you have a specialty?
  6. Describe your situation and ask, "How would help me in overcoming this problem?"
  7. How many appointments should I expect if we work together?
  8. When are you available to meet?
  9. Are you able to come to my home?
  10. What is your fee?
  11. Do you accept insurance?
  12. What resources do you have available to support me and my baby after our appointment?

International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) are the highest level of Lactation Consultants. In order to be certified, IBCLCs must pass certain college level classes, use a mentor who supervises their clinical training and pass a rigorous test. In addition, they must re-certify every 5 years and take 15 hours of continuing education in breastfeeding every year. Among IBCLCs there are specialties and wide differences in experience. IBCLCs who work in the hospital tend to work more with beginning breastfeeding, the first few weeks and breastfeeding premature babies. IBCLCs in private practice generally see the full range of breastfeeding experience from birth to weaning. In addition, they are free from corporate politics and policy.

Services by IBCLCs are covered by insurance companies both in and out of network. Coverage varies. Some IBCLCs are in network and you pay only a deductible. Most private practice IBCLCs are not in network. You pay out of pocket and be reimbursed. Most accept credit cards. Some offer sliding scale or payment plans. You can expect to pay IBCLCs from $0 in a hospital to $300+.

 

Certified Breastfeeding Counselors (CBC) are RNs who take a 45 hour course and pass the CBC certifying test. You can expect CBCs to charge from $0 at the hospital to $300+ for a home visit. Services of CBC/RNs are covered by insurance companies both in and out of network. Coverage varies. Some are in network and you pay only a deductible. 

 

Certified Breastfeeding Specialist (CBS), and Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC). These certificates are awarded after 45 hours of classroom education. Neither of these certifications requires any supervised training or personal experience before the Lactation Consultant receives their certificate. There is a wide range of experience and knowledge in these designations, from those who take only the 45 hours of classroom education, to RNs and MDs who earn the certificate to better understand breastfeeding. You could expect a consult to cost between $0 for CLCs working in a hospital or medical office, those just starting in private practice, up to $75 for a one-on-one appointment.

 

WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor: WIC PCs receive supervised training through WIC. There is a wide range of experience and knowledge in Peer Counselors, from those who have taken 20 hours of classroom education to those who have worked for WIC for decades. The services of WIC PCs are free if you receive WIC. In addition, some WIC offices have CLCs and IBCLCs on staff who are able to see you for a one-on-one appointment.

 

La Leche League Leaders. Technically, a LLL Leader is not a Lactation Consultant, but a highly educated volunteer who has breastfed at least one baby, gone through extensive training and mentorship and agrees to LLL's Ten Concepts of breastfeeding and parenting.  Breastfeeding help received through La Leche League Leaders is free. Yearly membership is encouraged but not mandatory. La Leche League Leaders help women either over the phone or in monthly group meetings that are held all over the world. They are allowed to make home visits, but not obligated.

 

Which is the right one to make an appointment with?

 

All Lactation Consultants and Specialists can help you with this:

  • How often to feed and how much
  • What to expect in the early days
  • Baby's feeding cues
  • How to know baby is getting enough
  • How to make more or less milk
  • How to have optimal feeds
  • Suggestions about latch
  • Show you different ways to hold your baby
  • Explain nipple care
  • If you want to pump, they can help you size pump flanges

All Lactation Consultants will observe you and your baby breastfeeding and write out a care plan that focuses on your problems and solutions.

 

An IBCLC is a health professional who, in addition to the basics above, will take a thorough medical history and discuss things that have an effect on breastfeeding. They work with your doctor or midwife if you need blood tests or other medical procedures that impact breastfeeding or milk production. 

 

If you have one of these situations, an IBCLC will probably be more helpful:

  • Your nipples are raw, bleeding, cracked, or hurting
  • You think, or have been told, that you are not making enough milk
  • Your baby is 5 days old and your milk has not come in or is 10 days and has not regained birth weight
  • Your baby is colicky or fussy or you think that your baby hates you and/or breastfeeding
  • You are crying every time you breastfeed because it hurts
  • You can't pump the amount of milk you need
  • You have an ongoing medical condition
  • Concerns about your baby's weight and how they latch or breastfeed,

In these situations, an IBCLC in private practice is more likely to be of help:

  • You need ongoing support and knowledge - continuous care
  • You need a long (hour plus) appointment
  • Your baby is older than 2 weeks
  • You need a specialist in your problem
  • You don't want to go to a hospital or clinic
  • You think, or you are ready to quit breastfeeding because you have tried everything
  • You want information unfiltered by corporate practice, policy or politics
  • It is an evening, weekend or holiday and your baby is hungry

With this information, where can you find a Lactation Consultant?

Most hospitals, WIC offices, and some pediatrician's offices and breastfeeding groups have Lactation Consultants on staff. 

There are many Lactation Consultants in private practice. You can find a geographical listing here: http://www.ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc 

Ask your friends or your doctor for a referral. You can also search online using search terms like "lactation consultant" along with the name of your town or nearby city.

When you are researching, it may seem that using a free or low cost Lactation Consultant is the best way to start. Another way of thinking is that if you never breastfed before, an excellent Lactation Consultant will shorten your learning curve and prevent problems. This is why it's important to talk to several before you make your decision. Remember that the most important thing is that you feel comfortable and overcome your current challenges.

What do I register for?

Ask any parent and you will get a confusing list of "must haves" and "must avoids"

This is because we all have personal preferences and guess what? So does your baby!

So how do you buy a gift for someone you've never met? And equipment for a game you've never played?

Here's a place to start:

Essentials. Babies eat, poop and sleep. They need diapers, breastfeeding, a car seat, if you have a car, and a place to sleep.

1. Diapers - cloth or disposable. Even if you plan on using cloth, a pack of disposables eases the learning curve of parenting
2. Wipes - cloth and disposable - babies are wet and messy. Plain water cleans most messes and has no chemicals. Even if you use disposable wipes when you go out, washclothes are bigger and more absorbent than disposable wipes.
3. Breastfeeding support - even if you don't have a horror show beginning, you will have a ton of questions and Lactation
Consultants can answer them to your satisfaction, unlike Google.
4. Domestic help so you can breastfeed. Housekeepers are not just for the rich! There is a special kind of housekeeper called a Postpartum Doula or Baby Nurse who is like your mom, only better. They cook, clean, hold the baby so you can sleep or shower, do laundry and hold you when you cry.
5. Meals so you can take care of your baby. Ever try to cook with only one arm? It's possible. But imagine how much nicer it is to pop a ready to eat meal made with love by your relatives? Buon Appetito!
6. A safe place to put the baby when they aren't in your arms. The American Academy of Pediatrics just updated their Sleep Policy. It's a long read and complicated, but please read it.
7. A car seat. Even if you don't have a car, you might want one for taxis and planes. Have two cars? You will be happier with two car seats.

Anything that makes essentials easier is next on the list.

Nice To Have Items:

For Breastfeeding:

1. 4-6 nursing tanks and bras. You will appreciate expensive ones if you have them, so ask for them.
2. Breast pads. cloth or disposable. You may not need them after a few weeks or you might. Ask for a variety. You will have a preference and you won't know until you use it.
3. Nipple butter or salve. Natural ones made with olive oil and calendula top my list for soothing and healing.
4. Burp Cloths - it's nice to have a dozen. Cloth diapers work well too for catching active letdowns and leaking on the other side.
5. Breastfeeding Pillow - Personally, most women would do better without this until breastfeeding is going well because breast pillows are often too tall or too short. When babies are breastfeeding well, they are convenient and cozy.

For Naps and Sleep

1. Rock N Play is #1 for parents. Somehow, the magic RnP keeps babies mostly happy or sleeping when you aren't holding them. It's some kind of miracle.
2. Bassinet that attaches to the parent's bed - These are wonderful for breastfeeding moms and babies. If nobody told you yet, most babies only want to be held by you. It's biological and while some babies don't mind being put down, our brains need the safe feelings and interaction with adults to grow.
3. Crib - While expensive, do not use a secondhand crib unless it has all the original hardware and the sides do not drop.
4. Pack and Play - Many people have this with the changing table/bassinet in the living room and something else in the nursery/bedroom. It's convenient for traveling, too.
5. 2-3 Sheets for the above

Taking care of the Baby

1. Baby clothes - You will have too many newborn and 3 month sizes. Your baby will probably be too big or too little for what ever you stock up on. Be flexible.
2. Blankets- A heavy blanket for the floor or stroller, 3 or 4 swaddle blankets
3. Sleep Sacks/Swaddles These ensure that your baby is warm, but not too warm, while they sleep.
4. Diaper Bag. This can be any tote bag or backpack or can be the real deal.
5. Bathtub or foam mat for sink and a towel
6. Natural Diaper cream and a natural soap/shampoo/bodywash. Skip the Johnson's Baby and Desitin. While natural products are more expensive, you don't need much. Plain warm water is the gentlest, most effective cleaner.

At some point, your family and friends go home & you are left alone to take care of the baby & the house.

For Getting Things Done

1. Enough clothes - There is a balancing point in having too many clothes and scrounging around in the hamper for your baby's or your's "least dirty" dirty shirt.
2. A baby carrier. The average family has 4-6 baby carriers because babies grow and your preferences change. Mobywraps are wonderful stable carriers for the early weeks but can be complicated to learn. Ergobaby, tulababy, Onya and Lillebaby are all great carriers that fit people differently. It's hard to guess while you are pregnant but know that many people are very happy with each of these.
3. Bouncy seat, swing or vibrating seat. This equipment is only useful for a few months - the most painful months. They are worth it.
4. A stroller. While a new baby might not appreciate it, most babies do at some point. A stroller allows you to get out for walks which help you feel better. They are great for combining errands without the in-and-out of the car and they hold a lot of shopping bags, diapers and library books.

These are the essentials! Happy Registering! 

Start Your Registry Here!

The Step-by-Step Holiday Guide to Plugs, Blebs and Mastitis

As parties, preparations and push-up bras work their evil magic...

Ho! Ho! Ho! and Go! Go! Go! grinds to a halt.

This is the day you don't feel so good and that throbbing pain in your breast may need medical attention today. Yes, TODAY! The day of all days that you can't afford to waste a single minute, let alone cross the whole day off your calendar and go to bed. Here is a step-by-step guide to moving milk and getting back in the game.

Plugged (clogged) Milk Ducts

Plugged ducts happen when milk stagnates in a section of your breast either from compression or inefficient milk removal. It could be a baby who isn’t latching well, or a few days when you are busy and delay nursing, or it could be from clothing that compresses an area of your breast- like an underwire or too tight bra.

The stagnant milk curdles into yogurt and then cheese. This solid milk creates a plug - a tiny string cheese, the thickness of angel hair pasta - which causes a back up of milk inside your breast. The painful lump is not the plug. The lump is a reservoir of milk BEHIND the plugged milk duct. If you start massaging on the lump, you are pressing milk into the plug and increasing the pressure without moving any dried milk out.

If you don’t move the plug and get the milk flowing again, you can develop mastitis.

Start self care immediately. It would be a good idea to call in sick to work and/or get help if you have children who rely on you for everything. Continue breastfeeding and pumping as often as possible. To work on getting the plug out, you may want to take a pain reliever, like Motrin, and give it some time to get into your system. You may not. Everyone has different pain tolerances, but working out a plugged duct is painful, even though it also feels good in a certain way.

It’s easier if someone can take care of your baby while you work on this.  If that isn’t possible, try when the baby takes a nap.

  • Breastfeed or pump, so your breast is less full. Either work in a big bowl of warm water or in the bathtub, with the water high enough that you can comfortably lean over and soak your breasts.  Soak them for a few minutes, to let the heat expand the ducts and soften the skin of your nipple.  
  • Grasp the nipple and pull it down away from the breast. Press it between your fingers and roll it, to your pain tolerance. It doesn’t have to be vigorous. All you are trying to do is work some dried milk out and reshape the curdled milk in the duct, so liquid milk can help to wash it out. You may start to see a white dot or a tiny string cheese on the tip of your nipple.
  • Move back about 1/2 inch and repeat, pulling the nipple down and away from your breast. Then, move back another 1/2” pinching and rolling any lumpy areas down, moving milk down to the plug. You may feel stringy lumps like spaghetti, inside your breast while you are massaging. This is dried milk. Massage any sore areas towards the nipple tip. You may use olive or another massage oil to keep friction to a minimum if you are not working in water.
  • When you are working the thickened milk out, it feels painful, or at least uncomfortable, and when the plug releases it feels immediately better. Sometimes you see the breastmilk string cheese in the water. If you don’t, that’s OK. Your baby may remove it while breastfeeding. It won't hurt your baby to swallow it. It’s just breastmilk cheese and still has all the antibodies and nutrients of your milk.

Breastfeeding with a plugged duct

Because a baby’s tongue massages your breast when they breastfeed, try changing up positions when you nurse. Try to line up their nose or chin with the sore spot and breastfeed. Some mothers swear by “dangle nursing.” Get on your hands and knees with the baby beneath you and breastfeed.

Be persistent and stay on top of milk removal. Try to figure out the cause and prevent that from happening. Some women have overabundant milk and their baby can’t remove it fast enough. If their baby oversleeps one night, they develop a plug. Some women are so exhausted they sleep in one position for 5 hours compressing a spot on their breast. Babies go through teething, a distractable phase, or have stuffy noses and leave breasts half-full. And, don't forget the above-mentioned parties and bras.

If you don't work out the plug you may develop a....

Nipple Bleb

A bleb is a milk pimple. It starts when milk sits in the nipple so long that it skins over. The treatment is the same as for plugged ducts. If nursing, massage or gentle exfoliation doesn’t open the skin, you may need to see your doctor to have it lanced. It sounds awful, but it is less painful than a bleb and brings immediate relief. Once the skin is opened, diligent and persistent plugged duct treatment is needed, or it will re-form. Both plugged ducts and blebs can also be a symptom of poor latch and tongue tie.

If you ignore blebs and plugs, you may develop...

Mastitis

Mastitis is an infection inside your breast. It happens when milk stagnates in a section of your breast and you are exhausted. Milk stagnates when there is incomplete removal of milk either from compression or a baby who isn’t latching well. 

Mastitis starts with a plugged duct and a lump in breast which you may or may not notice until it becomes infected. The first sign many women notice is an overnight decrease in milk production on one side. If nursing, pumping and massage don’t move the plug and the milk behind it, a pink or red patch will develop on the skin. Over time the red patch will grow, often into a stripe from nipple to the lump and into the armpit. You will become feverish, often engorged in one breast and feel awful. Mastitis has sudden-onset, flu-like symptoms: fatigue, aches, fever, chills and a sore or throbbing breast.

Mastitis can come on suddenly, in a matter of hours. It is a serious condition, that if untreated, can lead to breast abscesses or hospitalization.

There are two components of treatment.

The first is to get the milk flowing and the second is to address the infection. Getting milk moving is addressed in the section above on plugged ducts.

To treat the infection, you are going to have to decide how sick you are and what your treatment options are. It's not easy to decide to go to the emergency room when it's an hour away and you have 2 sick kids and a baby. Or, you've been fighting a yeast infection for months. Or this is your third round of mastitis in the past few months. Or, maybe it's Saturday night and you can go to the Urgent Care doctor in 12 hours.

If you can get the milk moving within an hour or so, you may start to heal with self-care alone. Your first action should be to massage the plug out and use your normal home remedies for sickness. Some people take vitamins, garlic, herbal teas or tinctures, zinc, chicken soup - whatever your favorite healing remedy is - take the time to massage your breast, get the milk flowing and go to bed. Your routine for the next few hours or 1/2 day should be sleep, nurse the baby, hand express/pump and massage the plug out. 

If you have done self-care for 12 hours and you are not getting better, or feel worse, it's time for medical attention.

If you know you are too sick for self-care, call your primary care, midwife or obstetrician, go to urgent care or the emergency room. They will prescribe an breastfeeding-friendly antibiotic which usually clears up the infection in a day or so. They may also take a culture when they examine you. You still need to unplug the duct but it will be easier when the infection is reduced. 

Mastitis is almost always a sign that you are trying to do too many things without enough rest. An exhausted mom will take not time to attend to make sure every latch is perfect, every feed complete. Because she is tired, it seems overwhelming to unplug yet another plugged duct. Mastitis is a call to simplify, to let go of something, so that you can take care of the most important person in your family, YOU.

If you need help resolving your plugged ducts, call or text Donna Bruschi, IBCLC at (845) 750-4402 for an appointment.

What solids do I start my baby on?

purple vegetablesIf you've noticed your 5-6 month old baby watching you eat, asking for food through gesturing and grabbing and sitting up (or almost,) you are probably asking this question!

You're confused by popular feeding theories.

Traditional iron-fortified rice cereal that many grandparents and pediatricians suggest is one. Another is homemade, jarred and squeeze pouches of pureed "Baby Food" and a third popular way is called baby-led weaning.

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is an odd phase in the US.

"Baby-Led" is clear enough but 'weaning' sounds confusing when used in this context because we generally use the term to mean ending breast or bottle feeding.  In Baby-Led Weaning, weaning is used in the original meaning of adding food to a baby's diet. What is means is that babies start by picking up food and feeding themselves. They learn how to eat by trial and error. 

 What NOT to eat is important.

You can feed any food except honey and foods you, the parents, or other family members are allergic to. Raw honey may have botulism spores which is harmless to children and adults but babies have a weaker immune system and are vulnerable to botulism poisoning.

While you are breastfeeding, there is no need for dairy foods in the forms of yogurt, cheese or liquid milk. Cow's milk nutrients are mostly the same only in different proportions. Your milk is the perfect balance of protein, fat and sugar for a human baby or toddler.

Real Babies need Real Food.

In whatever form you decide to start use nutrient dense "real food" - meat, vegetables, fruit & whole grains. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use foods in as close to their natural state as possible. Boxed or canned food is less nutritious and more expensive.

Apple sauce, avocado, banana, hamburger, diced chicken, mashed or shredded carrots, chopped mango, french cut green beans, sweet potato and diced pears are all common first foods that can be offered. 

Some people use whole grain oatmeal as a base food and add fruits and vegetables to that. Some people start with all veggies followed by fruits in the hopes that their baby won't develop a preference for sweet foods. While there seems to be some merit to this theory, a broad diet using all the flavors is much more interesting than an all "sweet" diet.

Your baby's diet needs yoga!

Consider that ayurvedic cooking classifies salty, bitter, sour, astringent, sweet and pungent as "the six tastes." Work to use a little bit of each taste in every meal and your baby's senses will be satisfied. Everyone has preferences, including your baby, and introducing a variety of tastes helps to balance strong preference. Ayurveda also recommends a mix of wet and dry, cold and warm, light and heavy foods.

Introduce a variety of textures and tastes. Many babies can start with semi soft, chunky, wet and dry foods. Watch when your baby eats. Puree was developed in a time when formula-fed babies started foods earlier and needed drinkable food. By the middle of the first year, most babies have some teeth and are very interested in chewing and biting. Biting and gumming food strengthens their jaw and flattens their palate, which helps to make enough room for teeth. Different textures keep meals interesting.

When to mix it up?

Feed one food for 3 to 4 days, then add a new food. If there are any allergies you know which food is causing it. Food reactions can take many forms. It might be sleeplessness or irritability. Rashes are common and may look like flushed red cheeks, a bulls-eye around the anus, chapping around the mouth, or a pimply sandpaper rash that covers large areas of skin. Diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation are also common signs of a sesitivity or allergy.

The first month or two, the focus is on offering foods and helping your baby to experiment with new sensations and tastes. While some babies dive right in, others take their time. Continue breastfeeding about the same amount you always have and offer food as an add-on.

Biting the Breast That Feeds You

Nothing prepared Jenn for the searing pain coming from her left breast. She let out a howl and looked down at her son. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was Josh with a big smile on his face. He pulled her nipple out another inch and let it go. He stared at her and tried to nurse again when her hand and a loud “No!” stopped him. His smile turned to a cry and he burst out sobbing.

Jenn felt terrible and confused. It hurt! Why would he bite her? Why was he so proud of hurting her?  Her first impulse was to push him away, then tears came to her eyes and she hugged him in.  A quick look at her nipple showed bright red teeth prints but no blood.

There is not much worse than a baby who bites. The most dedicated nursing mother can give up hope when faced with round two or three of nursing after a hard bite.

Why do babies bite and what can you do to stop them?

Most mothers report that their baby started biting at around 4-6 months of age. A baby usually bites because he wants his mother’s attention and her attention is elsewhere. A baby wants to be in constant connection with his mother because she is his lifeline. When she is away, even if it’s only on a mental vacation, he will try to bring her attention back. Other reasons a baby might be biting is because the milk flow slowed, his teeth hurt or he sees he’s getting an unusual reaction from his mother and he’s curious about it.

The easiest way to avoid being bitten again is to pay attention to your baby while he is nursing. There are clues that a bite is coming. In every feeding, you usually have three stages. The first is active feeding time, when the baby is gulping. That is usually a low risk time for biting. Then comes a transition time where you may feel your baby start to become restless, stop sucking or start squirming. Right after this, there may be a pause followed by the bite.

During the transition time, focus on your baby. If he tries to bite, be prepared to unlatch him with your finger. Alternatively, you can pull him in against your breast so his nose is blocked. When his nose is blocked, his mouth will pop open and he will release your breast. Most mothers have a preference to one way or the other.

At this point you can offer him something else, talk to him about nursing correctly or just end the nursing session and hold him. Try not to overreact by pushing him away or setting him down away from you. This just reinforces the feeling of separation that he was bringing to your attention by biting you.

Some babies bite once and never do it again. Others need a little more coaching. All babies stop because they love breastfeeding and you. They don’t want to hurt you or their ability to nurse.

Mother to Mother - Keeping it Real

Who Loves YOU?

Your baby, of course. Your partner, of course. Your friends... Of course!

How about you? Do you love yourself?

Most of us do. Probably not all the time. Maybe not even most of the time. Having a baby can exacerbate this lack of self love. Somehow, that little being brings out your worst: your impatience, your sadness, your anger, your low self esteem, your GUILT!!!!!

You fall into the comparison trap. You see other mothers at their best. You watch TV shows and movies with "Mom Impersonators". Screen writers condemn and make fun of your very worst moments while highlighting the Kodak Moments. You start to think "That's how it really is".

You start to think there is something wrong with you when your baby cries and you can't soothe him. You start to think you have no milk because your baby fusses at the breast, or because your breasts are small. You get anxious when your partner is due home because you are still in your pajamas, breakfast is still uneaten on the table and dinner is some sort of dim oasis far on the horizon.

You just want your mommy. Not just any mommy... but June Cleaver, Mother Theresa and Aunt Jemima rolled into one. Someone who will Take Over, GET ALL THOSE THINGS DONE, and hold you while you cry.

Honey... I got news for you. She's not coming. She doesn't exist and never has. If she ever did exist, she had Staff and probably drank to smooth it all out in her mind.

So what is possible?  A dose of acceptance. A little, or a lot of, "Letting go". Making some new friends who understand where you are at and how it is with a new baby.

Most importantly, you have to ask for help. People want to help you. They really do. See all those gifts, cards, emails, likes, phone messages, texts? That is because they want to help. They want you to feel proud, because they are proud of you. They want you to feel good about being a mother. Your job is to get over this mistaken belief that you have to do it all yourself.

It's not easy. Help doesn't always come in the right sizes, shapes and colors. Sometimes it comes with strings attached. Or guilt. Sometimes it's like a bag of hand-me-downs. You have to sort through it and take what works for you.

Sometimes, you have to be REAL specific about what you want....with your mother...who didn't raise you the way you are raising your baby. It's part of growing up and you can learn how to do it. She may grumble, or criticize (Painful!) but stick to what you want and she'll come around. Probably.

Grieving and Mothering

By Lisa Bullard

 

GrievingandMothering“Mom, this card says ‘Don’t worry about Nancy anymore,’”  Ember says, as she hands me a sticky note she scribbled on.

I wipe away a drifting tear, and take it from her. “Thanks, sweetie. Why shouldn’t I worry anymore?”

I want to know what is happening in her mind, partly because I’m feeling guilty about crying in front of her, and am trying to assess how I may possibly be messing her up by being a mess myself.

Also, I am wondering if with her fresh and innocent mind, she may be more in touch with the ethereal world, and be passing me a message.

“Because you don’t need to cry anymore. You should play with me.” She doesn’t like seeing me cry.

I miss my Aunt. She passed away recently. Having a child did not make me less emotional. I’ve always been emotional and have never done well at keeping my feelings inside. Grief seems to be out of my control, and it comes and goes as it pleases. Then again, so does every other emotion I feel, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

Along with the grief comes some guilt. Logically, I don’t know why I expect myself to be somebody different, as if a mother should not have a gamut of emotional reactions and responses to situations. I tell myself, and sometimes convince myself, that it is okay for my daughter to see a range of emotions. My Mom was stoic. She hid her hurts and angers, her passions and fears. I come from a long line of women who always show a happy face to the outside world, a strong face. Perhaps it stems from their prairie pioneering blood. I broke tradition. 

Along with other mothering situations I navigate, I find myself in uncharted territory. My Mom and Grandma did this differently. I have to find what works for me, for us, for my family. I have to be who I am, even if I find it is different than I thought I was supposed to be. Weeks later, Ember asks toddler girlme about dying. I’m glad I can be honest with her. My heart breaks when she asks, “Will you die, Mommy?” and then, “When will I die, Mommy?” I didn’t read about this in any parenting book. I try to be honest, but not scary. “We all die someday, honey, and that is why it is so special to be alive right now, and together.” She seems to be thinking about what I said. “Mom, why is that fire extinguisher red?” she asks, and just like that the conversation is over, for now. 

"As much as I want to protect her from things that hurt, emotionally and physically, I want to share the world with her, and the depth of our human experience."

Besides, I don’t think I could hide my grief from her even if I wanted to. Mothering, rather than making me more stoic, has actually deepened what I feel, and perhaps even made grief more powerful. There is no getting away from it. 

But, grief goes hand in hand with love, and mothering has made me feel love in a way I never felt before, too. For that, for that powerful love, I am so grateful. 

Bottom Line: I Was Never Going to Use Cloth Diapers

I was born at the dawn of the ecology movement, the same year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a groundbreaking book about the devastating effects of DDT on birds and other animals. I was cloth diapered in big white diapers with pins and plastic pants, as were my brother and sister.  My memory is imprinted with my mom dunking and swirling dirty diapers in the toilet.

Ewwww....She didn't use cloth diapers because she was eco-minded. 

She used cloth because everyone used cloth diapers. Disposable diapers were just being developed. She used disposable when we went on a cross-country trip in 1965. She described them as bulky white Pampers that you pinned onto a baby. She vaguely recalled pulling plastic pants over them.

When I babysat in the late 70s, Pampers were the best-selling diaper - disposable or other wise. They were wood pulp-filled bulky diapers with an outer layer that was the same material they make plastic garbage bags out of. The fasteners were tape that had a removable paper backing. I would peel off the little tab and stick the diaper onto baby Jason or his sister Courtney. Sometimes, I would get the angle wrong and try to peel the tape off, ripping the plastic cover, ruining the diaper. 

Fast forward to 1994 Diaper Utopia

I am pregnant and everyone uses disposables! You can buy big cases with hundreds of diapers at Costco. This is a new concept in 1994! They have some kind of really absorbent gel so they hold a lot of pee. They have a clothlike cover and they don't crinkle. Velcro tabs! They are trim fitting which means babies can walk easier and the diapers will take up less space in landfills. In addition, they are inventing all kinds of things like composting diapers and incinerating diapers to create electricity so that disposable diapers won't take over the earth. 

And...My Mother-in-Law's unwanted gift

Fran, told me that when she was a new mother, someone had given her eight weeks of Diaper Service. She considered it to be the perfect gift! It was so much easier and much more sanitary (She's big on sanitizing.) than washing your own diapers! She was excited to find that they still had diaper services and had purchased eight weeks of diaper service for me and for my sister-in-law.

I was shocked and appalled. How quaint! Where on earth had she dug up this best- forgotten, shriveled relic of disgustingness?  Who in their right mind would willingly dunk and swirl dirty diapers? Who would stab their thumbs and baby with diaper pins? And Crinkly Plastic Pants! Are you kidding me? 

I was polite. 

Because of the Bridal Shower "Microwave Gift" incident, I kept my mouth shut and made my husband talk to her and... she didn't listen.
About 6 weeks after my son was born, the phone rang. It was the Diaper Service. "Did you have your baby, yet?"
I've never been good with snappy comebacks and that day was no exception. "Um, yeah." 
"That's great! Congratulations! Frances Bruschi has gifted you with eight weeks of diaper service.We normally deliver to Hicksville on Fridays. Does that work for you?" 
"Um. Yeah, I guess so." I've never been very good with telling people "No." either.
"Great! We'll see you Friday!"

I felt kind of sick to my stomach. 

On Friday, Diaper Dave arrived. He explained that my gift included 80 diapers per week, 6 diaper covers, (they were plain white Pro-Wraps with velcro tabs) a big white diaper pail and a nylon diaper pail liner.  I would get 80 diapers delivered every week. All I had to do was put the nylon bag of dirty diapers out every Friday morning. He would pick them up and leave me with 80 more, bright white, sanitized, prefold diapers. He showed me how to diaper my son. It was easy enough.

He assured me there was no need for dunking and swirling.

I put the diapers in the nursery. I was curious. I took them out of the bag. They were very white! They didn't have any particular kind of smell. They smelled clean but I wouldn't say they smelled like soap, sunshine, chemicals or bleach, for example. I squished my son's fluffy butt. It was soft and hollow sounding. I stacked the diapers on the changing table and waited for the next diaper change.

I changed a few diapers, folding the prefold into the cover and pulling the velcro snugly around James' waist. They were a lot bulkier than disposables. They were also incredibly soft. They were almost as soft as his skin. And, by some amazing coincidence, they soaked up his pee and poop. 

A few weeks went by. I liked using the cloth diapers! I was curious about washing them. So I washed some of the diapers myself. Amazingly, they came clean! I researched and mail-ordered prefolds and covers which arrived just before the diaper service ran out. I had the washing routine down tight. I washed every other day.  I bought a new washing machine. I figured out how much money we were saving and bought a new dryer too. 

I've always been an idealist, a perfectionist and a reformer.

I loved my new washer and dryer. It had a built in second rinse. Washing diapers was a breeze. Every other day, I put the dirty diapers in the washer, set the washer for rinse and spin, reset the machine to hot wash/double rinse, added soap and sat back while the machine did the dirty work. I moved them to the dryer, set it for 65 minutes on hot. I stacked them up: 30 white diapers. I didn't have to go to Costco anymore. I held my nose high as I walked past the perfumed disposables in King Kullen and CVS. 

Once Upon A Child had a tiny store near me.

One day, I saw a garbage bag full of Bumkins All-In-One diapers for $100 - I couldn't believe my luck! There were 4 sizes in the bag and enough in each size for a full stash. I bought them, took them home and washed them. I ditched the prefolds, certain that I had found my true love. 

But you know that's not how cloth diaper stashes work

My friend, Donna, was showing me her latest purchase: Kushies All in Ones. Unlike my sometimes leaky, nylon-shelled Bumkins, Kushies had PVC covers and more layers of flannel. They had cute prints and colors. I had diaper envy. Of course, I quickly realized that I needed Kushies to make my life easier. I bought a 5 pack. AT LAST, I could stop buying diapers- I had enough diapers to diaper the next two or three babies.

Except, next pregnancy, I had twins. I told all Gift Givers to buy me Kushies and received 2 matched sets of 36 small diapers and 36 large diapers. Now that I really was done buying diapers, I went off the deep end with cloth diaper reform.

I move from Fan to Zealot

The twins never wore disposable diapers after the meconium poop passed. Using All-In-One diapers was just easier than buying disposable diapers for an enthusiastic mother on a mission. I bought 40 washcloths to use instead of wipes. Of course, we used cloth when we traveled. When the washer went on the fritz, I packed up the kids and went to the laundromat for our daily adventure. I did feel weird until I saw a guy washing his oil-covered mechanics clothes - at least my dirt was organic in nature and didn't stick to the inside of the washer!

Trash hadn't been such a big deal when we lived in a town with trash pick-up. Now, we lived in the country and took our trash to the transfer station. With three little kids, it was hard to take the garbage weekly. Most of our garbage was "clean" garbage - empty packages and wrappers. We composted food and rinsed cans and meat trays. I imagined the awful stench of two or three week-old disposable diapers sitting in the shed...

I appreciated my washer and dryer and I used them for years. The washer lasted 12 years and the dryer 16 years. (I line dry a lot in nice weather.) Even though I didn't pay for the Kushies, I still saved thousands of dollars by cloth diapering three babies. Each baby goes through about 8000 diapers. I don't have to tell you how much they cost!

I climb onto my "Free and Clear" Soapbox

We don't really think about trash much because our garbage goes AWAY, somewhere. It doesn't sit in our backyard, unsightly, stinking up the place. When thrown away, 8000 diapers is about 30 large black plastic bags of non-compostable plastics, chemicals and bio-waste. When my children were done with diapers, the prefolds went under the sink for spills, dusting and cleaning.  The Kushies fit into one white tall kitchen garbage bag and went to a friend who used them for her next two children.

In the 15 years since my twins have potty trained, cloth diapers have evolved even more. There really is a cloth diaper for every baby and every lifestyle. While I lean towards one extreme, there is value in part-time cloth diapering, too. I share this story for your consideration and invite you to think about the many aspects of reusable diapers and how they might fit into your life.

Every April, we host a Great Cloth Diaper Change. Please join us. We provide the cloth diapers. Even if you only change into one cloth diaper, that is one diaper less in our trash stream.

How Long You Gonna Breastfeed that Baby?

The Number One, Nosy Nelly question, stated or implied with an eyeroll.

laraVariations include:

  • When are you going to stop breastfeeding?
  • You're STILL breastfeeding!?
  • You'll stop when he has teeth, right?
  • You know, there's no nutritional value after a year.
  • She doesn't take a bottle!?
  • It's time to stop nursing now. You did it long enough.
  • The "say-nothing-but-wrinkle-their-nose-raise-their-eyebrows-and-look-at-you" look

 

 

Ending breastfeeding is full of emotions for you and your baby.

It can be hard to be OK with all of your own feelings around weaning, let alone articulate and share them with random strangers and rude relatives.

Weaning might be forced at a few weeks or months due to lack of support, misinformation or medical cause. It might be an independent one year old too busy with his big brother to nurse. It may happen after 5 or more years of mutually satisfying breastfeeding.

Even in relationships where baby-led weaning is desired, you will swing between overwhelming love and feeling trapped. Closeness and connection can quickly turn claustrophobic with 24/7 soothing and feeding. You can dislike your larger, leaking breasts, and breastfeeding related problems like plugged ducts and mastitis, even as you love your baby's robust health, milk drunk naps, loving looks and snuggles.

The obvious neediness of a normal baby doesn't look like normal in our culture. 

We pride ourself on bootstrapping independence. Many nursing mamas feel, and are told that they are somehow "causing" this innate neediness, because their baby insists on connection and reconnection with their mama. While there are many variables in personalities, babies who are breastfed longer tend to develop greater confidence, security and independence in the preschool years and later.

When asked for responses to "How long are you going to breastfeed?" Moms find many ways to answer, and their overwhelming reaction is this: 

"It is an intimate question; one that shouldn't be asked!"

Rude people are everywhere and the best defense is a good offense. It can be helpful to practice a few responses. Write down ones that pop up after the offender has left. You may find a few responses here that resonate with you. Practice saying them and you will gracefully handle this question every time it pops up!

People are curious about breastfeeding.

If this might be the case, try a straightforward answer, grounded in life as you know it. You might say:

"When he's ready."
"Whenever my baby decides she's done."
"When we are both ready."
"Whenever it feels like it's time. I'll follow my baby's lead. No specific age in mind."
"Whenever my baby wants to."
"When my daughter decides to or I stop producing... whichever comes first."
"I was surprised we got to 1 year...now she's 3 so I gave up guessing. One less thing for me to worry about as far as her being a picky eater."
"When my baby is done or when she becomes too old for me to be comfortable with continuing."
"When it isn't working for us anymore. He's 3.5 years and we're still going strong... Very, very strong."
"My first was 4 when he stopped. my second just turned 3 and the baby is 9 months, so I have years left."
"My son just turned 1 and I am so done. I am slowly in the process of weaning."
"I'm hoping to make it at least a year. Anything after that will be a pleasant bonus. We'll wean whenever we're both ready after that.

Being evasive is a time honored way of subtly letting rude people know that their question is not welcome!

"Some day."
"Eventually."
"In about fifteen minutes."
"After we switch sides."

Be prepared for what happened when other mamas were evasive: 

"I told someone 'When he's ready' this weekend. She went all bug-eyed and said, "WHAT IF THAT'S NOT TILL HE'S FIVE?" My response was a shrug."

"When he doesn't want to anymore. I love the look on everyone's face when I say that.

Another milestone, college, is often mentioned to politely deflect the question.

"Maybe the day I drop her off at college."
"I just say college and change the subject, because it's no one's business."
"It's hard to side-lie in a dorm bed!"
"Of course if he decides to stay local as opposed to going away, say SUNY New Paltz, well, obviously we'll have reassess weaning.

'I'm sure he'll quit by middle school..."

If they don't take a mild hint? Bring out the big guns!

"When are you going to stop minding my business?"
"When you pry this baby from my cold dead hands!!!!
"Never! She's gunna breastfeed til I die."

Finally, there's nothing like confidence and personal experience to educate another:

"I would like to be completely weaned before she turns 2. I went to 18 months with my first."

"I've breastfed two kids to their second birthdays and they self-weaned. I plan on letting my baby do the same and hopefully she'll go longer than her older sisters! When my baby is done, that's when I'll stop breastfeeding."

"I remember holding my 3 year old child, who wasn't breastfed, and thinking I wouldn't be comfortable breastfeeding a child this old. Of course, it may be different with my second, because I have a breastfeeding relationship with her already....we shall see."

"I say one, but I love it so much, I don't know. I'll let her decide. I never realized what a bond it is. I love it. My hubby knows how much it means to me too, so he is good with it. We were at my mom's yesterday and I was feeding the baby on the couch. He pulled down my shirt. He was being funny! He said "I don't care if your boob is out, but cover the belly." Ha! I never thought I would hear that one."

"We are at 7 months. I would personally like to stop at 1 year, but she seems to be on her own schedule, as usual, so whatever her majesty wants, I guess her majesty gets!"

"There are days when I'm over it- when she still nurses like a newborn. She's 19 mos, but for the most part I'm so glad we're still at it!! Especially when she goes through eating strikes or when she's sick...I'll let her decide when to wean."

"I used to tell people that my minimum goal was the guideline set by World Health Organization and talk about the importance of that. If pushed, I'd tell them that my goal is baby-led weaning."

"In the end, none of my four were entirely baby-led weaned and I would have liked things to go differently. My first was 4 years 9 months and cut off cold turkey in desperation when baby-led weaning, tapering feeds slowly and discussions didn't work. It was a HUGE mistake. It affected our relationship for years. I nudged my second, third and fourth along a little faster than they were ready for, but I was never going to cut my kids off cold turkey again. The second and third were 5 years when they weaned. The last one weaned a bit before her 3rd birthday because I ran out of milk, dry nursing was very uncomfortable and she wasn't especially upset."

"When my pediatrician and I agree that the baby is no longer breastfeeding. (this puzzles them) I often had a diaper bag full of articles and research that I would offer to family members who had something to say about it. I told my MIL that when she graduated from medical school and completed her residency in Pediatrics, I would be happy to discuss the care and feeding of my child with her, but until she is a doctor I will not discuss these issues with her at all. That shut her up."

"I went to 2 1/2 last time. Not really thinking I want to do that again. We'll see how it goes."

"When baby feels like it. My first weaned around 16 months but I hope my second makes it to 2 years."

Whenever you and your baby decide to wean, whether breastfeeding is measured in days, weeks or years, know that it is a highly personal decision that is rarely based in hard facts. It's often unpredictable and complicated. When you are finished, you will have appreciation for nursing and for yourself, and probably some regrets and 20-20 hindsight. But, you will never forget how breastfeeding and weaning made you feel.

My thanks to the mamas of Hudson Valley Breastfeeding for their wise comments and quotes.

If you are needing information about weaning your breastfed baby or child, please call/text Donna Bruschi at 845-750-4402 or read more here.

Teething, Biting & Being Mean

"All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..."

It was a wonderful and exciting day I lost my first baby tooth!  The entire class gathered round to see the tooth. To stare at the bloody gap. To speculate how much the tooth fairy would leave. (I think I got a dime per tooth.) And, for some crusty first graders, to completely deny the existence of The Tooth Fairy. (No!!! And Santa? And the Easter Bunny?)

The excitement passed hands within a day or so, as another classmate took center stage with a tooth falling out. 

It was one thing to be the bloodied master of my own destiny, yanking my tooth out of its socket, triumphantly holding it in my fingers, going to the nurse's office and coming back with a small brown envelope and a bloody gauze square!

It was another to be in the middle of the pumpkin toothed masses with big gaps and even bigger teeth crookedly making their way front and center. When that happened, I remember becoming acutely self-conscious. I yearned for my beautifully aligned, small, perfect, baby teeth.

But, growing up doesn't work that way. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Whether for a 6 month old or a 6 year old, two front teeth are a perfect gift! Teeth are wonderfully useful things to have, to use and to look at. Teeth make possible a whole new way of eating, relating to the world and, of course, change a baby's looks dramatically.

The process of teething requires your patience and understanding. It's often uncomfortable or painful and when we have a painful spot, our instinct is to apply pressure. That is exactly what babies do to mama's breast, daddy's shoulder or brother's fingers.

Unfortunately, it usually result in the first act of discipline that a child experiences.

One idea I often hear, and would like to clarify is that babies aren't evil and they don't "like" to inflict pain on you. What they do love is "surprises." When they bite you and see you jump, your face changes dramatically and your exclamation is not what they usually hear. (I hope!) They laugh at the surprise!

Because of this misunderstanding, a number of parents are dramatic or harsh when their baby bites and their dramatic responses may actually prolong their baby's biting experiments, because the baby is looking first for a pattern and then for a surprise.

A respectful way to handle baby bites is try to decipher a pattern of biting, anticipate bites, and avoid them. If baby does land a bite, try to quickly pull the baby in closer, try to stay calm and redirect them with something they CAN chew on - a frozen cloth, a wooden or silicone teether, or a snack.

A kind way to stay out of harm's way, yet connected and communicating correct behavior is to keep the baby on your lap and face them out while putting a teether in their mouth or hand.

As with any discipline, practice makes perfect! And, with 20 teeth to practice on, it is inevitable that you will find a way that works best for you and your baby.

Toddlers who bite are another 'beast' altogether and I will talk about them next week.

You're OK - Be a Better Mom Without Doing Anything!

 

"You're OK."

"No! I am not OK!"

One year old Angela was taking her first steps when she abruptly face-planted, startling herself and bumping her head. Her daddy scooped her up and snuggled her in.

"You're OK! You're OK. You didn't hurt yourself. You are fine. You did it! You walked!"

To his surprise, she just cried harder. He started to bounce her and chant, "What's wrong? You aren't hurt. It's just a little bump. You are OK. All Better! See? Just a little bump. Nothing to cry about."

Her response was to scream and thrash her legs wiggling out of his arms. She slid down his leg onto the floor and continued sobbing.

Her daddy stopped. He looked at her. While a goose egg was forming on her forehead, big tears ran down her face. She was sobbing deep sobs and had refused his comfort. It seemed way out of proportion to the fall she had taken.

And it was. The bump hurt, but not badly. The suddenness of the fall frightened her and that hurt more, so she cried in fear.

But what hurt most was her daddy's dismissal of her fright. In her mind, her protector had failed to protect her and was now dismissing her fears as unimportant. In other words, he was dismissing one of her basic needs.

We can't always protect our baby or child from harm. Things happen that we have no control over. Toddlers trip and topple over. We have car accidents and children get sick.

On some level your child understands this but still has a basic need for you to protect them from bad things. When that need isn't met, because we can't possibly catch every fall and prevent every bruise, something else has to take it's place.

That something else is empathy and compassion.

Compassion is when you understand that a person has their own reasons for behaving in a curious way. Compassion forgives their inexplicable behavior and lets you be kind to them. We offer reassurance. We have patience with babies and children as we do when someone is handicapped. We don't expect a person with a broken leg to run. We don't expect a baby or toddler to be smiling all the time.

Empathy is relating with someone from their perspective. We all know or have heard of a baby who was terrified of Santa. We don't understand it from our perspective. Why would any child be scared of Santa Claus? But if we look at it from a toddler's perspective, things look really different. A toddler might think:

"This person is a stranger! I've never seen such a big beard. He acts like he knows me but I don't know him. He's loud and too close. If I could take my time and meet him, I might want to know him more, but I don't know what he'll do to me. Better to be safe and stay with Mama. She will protect me."
 
When you are empathetic and compassionate, you look and listen to your child and try to figure out what is wrong from their point of view. You listen and make an educated guess based on their age and development. You acknowledge their feelings, instead of shushing them, which helps them calm themselves.

Sometimes there is nothing we can do. A baby who is colicky and crying causes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness in us and there isn't much you can do. When your baby cries like that, you would do anything to make them stop. But telling them that they are OK, that there's nothing wrong and telling them that they are fine isn't true. What is true is that you don't know what is wrong and you can't do anything more than hold them until they feel better.

If you have ever been upset, you can understand this. It's a universal experience to have a family member tell us to be quiet, that there's nothing wrong with us and certainly nothing to be upset about! But inside, we know there is something wrong. Others don't have to fix anything or hurry us through our problem. All they need to do is witness our unhappiness so we don't have to face it alone. When someone takes time to sit with us in our pain, that action, in itself, eases the pain.

Why is this important? We are human beings with emotions. When we are encouraged to feel all our emotions, and that all of our feelings, good and bad, are OK, we can feel normal! We learn to have a healthy respect for ourselves and our powers of perception. We can trust that if we hurt, there's something wrong and we can ask for help!  If our baby's emotional needs are not allowed to be expressed and develop, they can not be empathetic to others. They may fail to form family relationships and friendships that nourish them. When you are empathetic and compassionate to your baby and toddler, you model ideal human behavior that they can use with their siblings and friends.

By contrast, when the all-powerful, all-knowing parent tells a baby that “You are crying over nothing.” “You should be ashamed of yourself for not being a big girl.” “Suck it up! Be a man.” “Don't be a cry baby!” The child mistrusts what they are experiencing. They may find themselves in a situation wondering if something bad is really good because they have lost touch with that inner guidance that was in place when they were babies.

Each developmental stage has its own developmental needs which requires parents to respond differently as their baby grows. What is universal is the need  for babies and children to be listened to and receive empathy and compassion.

If you would like to learn to be more compassionate and empathetic as a parent, please read more about my Parenting Repatterning.

 

Power to the Peaceful Parent

August is Breastfeeding Awareness month and I’ve got boob on the brain! My baby girl, Rita Cassidy was born 3 summers ago, in August of 2011. We are about to celebrate her 3rd birthday later this week! It is truly amazing how quickly little ones grow!

I cannot put very many accomplishments above watching my daughter’s growth in those first 8 months during which she was exclusively breastfed! I remember moments of pride that couldn’t be contained after well-visits with the pediatrician confirmed our belief that our daughter was thriving on her mama’s milk.

There are few relationships in life that are as basic, primal, and intrinsic as that of the newborn baby and mother: an exclusive, yet mutually beneficial symbiotic partnership!

I remember there were moments during pregnancy where I found it difficult to visualize what my days would be like with a new baby in our home: what would it be like to breastfeed? Would my breasts meet their required duties? Would they leak like a dripping faucet? All of these questions whirled through my mind as Rita’s expected arrival in the world drew nearer…

I told myself, time and again during pregnancy, when it came to breastfeeding, "Just take it day by day." I had faith in my body, but the breastfeeding class I had participated in left me with doubts! In my last trimester I came to the realization that I had done enough breastfeeding homework. I felt like the only way to learn breastfeeding, was to have my baby at my breast!

12 days after her expected due date, Rita arrived right on time! One hour after she was born, she successfully latched and nursed on both sides. My heart was full. There are no words to describe the emotions which new parents go through in the first few days after welcoming a new baby to the world. It is a feeling I will cherish forever. What I find so remarkable is that although my baby and I had never exchanged glances before, this was not the beginning of our journey.

The journey together for mother and baby begins with conception, peaks at birth and then is nurtured through breastfeeding! After coming home from the hospital with our daughter I was surprised how quickly we were able to find our own rhythms. At the heart of our daily rhythm was breastfeeding.  

Finding our way to a happy nursing relationship facilitated my ability to create daily patterns that kept both me and Rita content! Our first waking moments together each morning were shared during breastfeeding. Nursing led to Rita’s naps and helped her transition back to wakefulness from rest. Finally, nursing was how would say good night to each other at the end of each day!  

We weaned when she was 25 months. These days my breasts still hold a special place in Rita’s heart! Looking back it almost seems the weaning period was more difficult for me than her, emotionally speaking! Every once in a while she will catch an exposed breast and attempt a lightning fast latch on! But, to our surprise she has forgotten how to latch properly and we both start to giggle!

She recently told me “I want big boobs!” I laughed and asked her what she would do with them?” She responded “I would let Mama nurse on them!”  

Pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding empowered me as a woman! Through these experiences I became passionate about autonomy in birth, lactivism and family wellness! I want to dedicate some of my time to fostering a way of societal thinking that promotes holistic wellness from conception through breastfeeding and onward! I feel so blessed to be raising my daughter in a conscious community like New Paltz. Our community is a Mecca for holistic living particularly in the childbirth department!

Let us work together: Mothers, Fathers, Grandmothers, Lactivists, Midwives, Doulas and Childbirth Educators, all side by side, in an effort to create a space where children come into this world peacefully and parents feel empowered to make their own informed choices!

Power to the Peaceful Parent!

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Pulling a Double Shift: Working with a Baby: The Calm in the Chaos

Pulling a Double Shift

Hello Mamas!

It has been a whirlwind of a week in my part of town! With gardening season in full swing, my daughter’s seemingly exponential pace and zest for life, my husband in Manhattan for work, dog sitting, and my GMO education outreach here in town, my head has just slowed to a stationary position (from full on spinning for the last couple days).

Silly me, I double-booked myself again! Since I have become a mom, I have developed the unfortunate habit of double-booking myself. Planning to be in two places doing three jobs at once! Three jobs because if I am working my daughter is by my side.

This past week I had scheduled myself to the point of no return… I had volunteered to dog sit (my mother’s lovable pup) and to man an outreach table at Farm Fest on campus on Thursday, all while my husband was out of town for business!

He returned last night and the dog was picked up this morning, hence my ability to write cohesive thoughts on the page. After day one (of three days total) of dog sitting, outreach at Farmfest, and hubby out of town; I felt rusty. Rusty in my bones; when I put Rita and the dog down to bed for the night I was done. I was still done when Rita awoke at 5:30 the next morning to begin our next fun filled day of adventure!

But, this is more than a rant about how hectic my last couple of days were; this is the story of achievement on the cosmic level! This past Saturday, (Day 3 of dig sit/ no hubby fest) I managed to meditate for the first time since Rita has been born.

Seriously, for almost three years now my mind has been so hyperactive that I have not successfully meditated, or truly quieted my mind in that space of time, until yesterday! Blissful is the quiet mind! After harvesting some greens around the yard to throw into a recipe I found myself with the space to sit in my yard and meditate.

A space just for me, but, at the same time for the whole universe. I fell into the void: out of myself and became one with everything else again! I was content. I had achieved some kind of nirvana amidst chaos, yes! Finding calm within the chaos… I am so surprised to report that the first time I have truly meditated in years coincided with one of the most hectic weeks of my adult life!

If you would have told me to “keep calm and meditate” when I ranted about my busy, over loaded week, I probably would of went lioness and ripped some heads off! But, seriously I think there is a lot to be said about finding calm in the storm.

When we are able to maintain inner calm, emotions like happiness and joy just seem to flow toward us and emanate from us! I think part of my ability to find this place of inner calm within myself was because I felt accomplished: Super Mama!

I had handled all of my life’s tasks by myself, plus some extra work, including outreach, gardening and dog sitting! I also managed to succeed at most of these things! (As anyone of you who work with your young children around know, for every one task accomplished three more projects are created! Ask me about how Farmfest outreach went with toddler in tow for a good laugh).

Meditate on this: How amazing is our ability to thrive! I truly believe in the power of positive thinking. I can think back now to the time wasted worrying about what a hard time I was going to have while my husband was out of town.

In retrospect, it was all for null because my daughter, dog for the weekend, and I were a great trio! Within us all lays great strength and the ability to do more than merely to survive but to flourish. Let us all work to live in a space where we recognize our true potential at that of those around us!

Till next time, in the wise words of Willy Wonka: We are the Music Makers, We are the Dreamers of the Dream… Be Well!

Jasmine

Childhood Perceptions of Breastfeeding

Do you ever wonder how children’s perceptions of breastfeeding evolve as they get older? I do! I am interested in how children’s perceptions change specifically in the period surrounding their wean time, as well as the next couple of years after weaning.

It seems obvious to me that a child’s relationship to breastfeeding evolves from the time they are a newborn till the time they wean. What happens then? Breastfeeding which was always a personal experience for the child becomes something of a spectator sport, something which they no longer participate in, but will often see other children in the act.

Recently, my 2 ½ year old daughter and I were at the library socializing with other children her age. A nursing toddler, a little girl Rita’s size, caught her eye. She hurried over and asked “Are you nursing?” The mother replied “Yes” politely while the nursing toddler went about her business.

Awkward-Extended-Breastfeeding-Explanation crisis averted.

Then Rita asked “How come your still nursing? You're not a tiny baby!” I started to cringe a bit, wondering where this conversation would lead. The mother smiled but paused for a moment and responded “Because she still likes to.” A great answer in my book and Rita seemed content with it too. 

What strikes me as comical about this situation and others similar to it is that Rita breastfed long beyond being a “tiny baby.” In fact when she weaned only a few months previous, she was quite a big girl, weighing in at over 30 lbs and past 2 years old! Yet, for some reason, at this point, Rita only associates nursing with tiny babies.

Perhaps, I am the culprit to Rita’s association of breastfeeding with tiny babies.

As Rita was fully weaned, every so often she would try to nurse on me (she still does this six months after weaning every once in a while). I would respond to her nursing attempts by saying “What are you doing trying to nurse? You're not a tiny baby anymore, you finished up all mama’s milk.” At this she will laugh and forget about her prior request.

Did I oversimplify the breastfeeding relationship to my daughter throughout the weaning process? Granted she is only two, so naturally many of our explanations to her are probably oversimplified. But, after our interaction at the library I felt like I may have fallen short.

My daughter and I breastfed longer than most,  and yet she didn’t understand the relationship when she saw another toddler-mother pair modeling it! I am thinking through continuing to educate her on the evolving role that breastfeeding can play in a child’s life and emphasizing that it is unique to each child.

I have one memory from my youth of breastfeeding.

Growing up, I was not exposed to breastfeeding. It was Christmas and the whole family was together. I drifted from the group and wandered into the seemingly empty living room. There was my Aunt Nancy, with my newborn cousin, silently nursing. I felt like I had interrupted, didn’t belong and snuck out just as quietly as I had entered. That’s it. My only memory of breastfeeding comes from my Aunt isolating herself from the rest of my family to nurse.

I will never forget the first time I saw a group of mothers breastfeeding together.

At that point I was a breastfeeding mom myself and it blew my mind. It kindled an ancient memory in me, as if I, deep down in my cells, remembered a time when women gathered and tended their children together.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up with the minimal exposure to breastfeeding that I had. I want her to understand it as a natural part of our lives, something that does not need to be secretive or concealed.

 I want her to know how it filled me with pride to breastfeed her!  It fills me with joy to think about her experiencing this same relationship someday! As she grows and her memories of being at the breast grow foggier, I will strive to continue educating her about the normalcy of breastfeeding (at any size or age). I’m not trying to turn my two year old into a lactivist by any means; it is simply my hope that as she gets older she remains comfortable with the breastfeeding relationship when she observes it! As with most situations in life, a bit of compassion and understanding go along way!

Till next time, Be Well!

The Healing Energies of Children

Hello Mamas! The season of our lives when our families are blossoming is a precious time filled with abundant love, joy and satisfaction. But inevitably, we will all experience pain and loss in our lives. This can be hard to deal with when it pierces the bubble of the happy family; particularly, because we tend to be more emotionally vulnerable during these special years. I wanted to take a moment this week and write about the magnificent healing energies of children.

Isn’t there something quite special about how a small child can light up a room! As parents we share this experience in grocery stores, walking down the street or standing in line at the bank: random strangers offering smiles and blessings towards our little ones! I have had several opportunities to experience this on a grand scale when taking my daughter to a nursing home to visit both of my grandmothers. As little Rita made her way through the homes the whole atmosphere seemed to change. Tired faces were suddenly transformed into smiling joyful ones, laughter and small talk would follow us.

It fascinated me and filled me with joy to witness the happiness and hope which makes up the medicine of small children! Children seem to have an innate ability to diminish pain and grief. Perhaps, this is because they encourage us to be present in the moment, to be fully alive in the now! Typically our pain lies not in the present, but in the past (especially when we are speaking of emotional pain as opposed to the physical pain of an illness or injury). Therefore, by opening up the space for us to be present in the moment children allow us to momentarily forget past hurts.

By creating a space where pain and loss are not the dominant emotions, children open up a space in us for love and joy to once again flow freely! There are so many benefits to spending time around small children, undoubtedly it is important for the balanced functioning of societies. For in each stage of our lives children have something different to offer us; whether it be showing older children how there story began and how much they have grown, teaching young adults and new parents responsibility and patience, or offering hope to the elderly; children are healers!  

Children’s miraculous healing powers stem from simple medicine. Theirs is not the medicine of chemistry and pharmaceuticals nor that of herbs and ancient meditation techniques; the medicine of children comes from within. Children offer us heart centered healing energy.  Next time you find yourself feeling down or caught up in past emotional trauma take a walk with your child, hold their tiny hand and allow yourself to be healed.

Remember that as a parent of a small child you are blessed with their cosmic healing powers on a daily basis and that many others can benefit from this as well! Embrace the random stranger who smiles and coos at your child, take a moment to let your child interact with them, who knows the small miracle your child may have to offer!

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Celebrating the Woman Within the Mother

Happy, Happy 2014!

As we take time to embrace a new year, it is important that we also take some time and embrace ourselves. That is, give yourself a little pat on the back! A pat on the back for all the hard work you put in and the love you pour out as a mother.

Take some time to enjoy some activities simply because they make you happy! You as a person, as an individual with needs, beyond the all encompassing realm of motherhood!

“I mourn the life I had before I was a mother,” a dear friend of mine and mother of two beautiful young children articulated in a recent phone conversation of ours. These may seem like the words of a new mom burdened with the many duties and responsibilities of motherhood or from a woman adjusting to the idea of herself as a mother figure, but no!

These words come from a strong, devoted woman who always saw herself as a mother within her lifetime. A mother who chooses to stay at home with her young children, to raise them, to exclusively breastfeed, to grow a garden to provide her family with optimal nourishment, ultimately a mother whose greatest priority is providing her children with the best start in life she can!

What is it that calls her to mourn the life she had prior to becoming a mom?

It is apparent she finds her role as a mother most fulfilling! However, it is not the mother within her who mourns, it is the woman! The woman who spent her maiden days wandering through the forest, creating art and poetry, going to rock and roll concerts, baking birthday cakes for friends, and simply reading books, this woman inside grieves!

As fellow mothers, comrades on this spiraling journey, we understand all too well how few and far between moments meant for idleness and indulging in one’s passions come along. Most of us find joy in the simple pleasure of brushing our hair and teeth before leaving the house! When we can barely find the time for oral hygiene, where do our needs as women fall?

All too often our needs as a woman, within the mother, fall by the wayside. This neglect for the woman within us leaves us feeling frazzled, totally drained and mundane. The frazzled mother grieves for the woman who once ruled her days, not because she wishes to go back to that time in her life, but rather because that woman is still inside her begging to be indulged!

That woman calls to her from within! But, surrounded by the seemingly never-ending tasks of motherhood, her cries remain unheard and unanswered. When these calls remain unanswered for too long the results can be destructive; sadness and depression, hopelessness, and devaluation of oneself for not finding happiness in motherhood. At the end of the day there exists a mother and a woman who is unhappy.


This is a call to action!

Take the time to nourish your inner sacred reservoir! This sacred reservoir is the place where the woman in you resides. When your reservoir is depleted just getting through life’s daily tasks can seem daunting.

Conversely, when your sacred reservoir is full you are able to flow through each day in sink with the universe broad stepping daily inconveniences without a negative thought! In this fulfilled and optimally nourished state of being you are able to be the sacred blessed mother you strive to be!

How do I nourish my inner sacred reservoir?

The answer to this question is different for each mother and can be formulated by listening to the woman within! Some woman may require more creative independent time than others, while an indulgent bath may do the trick for some, a solo walk in the woods or a visit with old friends may be necessary for others. Only you can stake out the path, the perfect mixture of “me time” which will sustain you as a mother and nourish the woman within!

Be an advocate; recognize this need in other moms!

As mothers we are often able to recognize the signs of burnout in a fellow mother. Be the first to tell a friend, “It sounds like you need a break”. I find it helps to emphasize the fact that taking time out for your self is not selfish, but rather it is compassionate, because understanding your needs as a woman will allow you to find the balance you need to be a joyful mother.

Perhaps you can help out a mother in need by offering to host a play date at your place allowing her some free time or try to entice her with an afternoon out on the town while dad stays at home with the little one. Of course, we can always help each other by providing a shoulder to lean on, someone who will listen without quickly countering with how difficult your day as a mother was, a caring friend!

Whether you’re an earth mama or a rainbow mother, two cups of coffee to start the day or a strictly herbal type of gal, you have needs! Always take some time to nourish your inner sacred reservoir and listen to the woman within, after all she is wise and lives at the core of your being.

The thought of mothers looking out for mothers and creating a space of compassion, makes my heart full! It is my hope that we never lose touch with our inner voice, the woman within who guided us on our path to motherhood. May she be ever nurtured!

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Maternal Archetypes, Earth Mothers & Creative Mama’s

 

 

Hello Mamas! Lately, I have been thinking about maternal archetypes. Archetypes are collective and are influenced by social groups and culture as much as by individual experience.

Most of us if asked to describe “a mother figure” have a set group of characteristics that define the role of mother, this is the maternal archetype. From home to home and culture to culture this archetype will vary, but there are many universal commonalities. Off the top of our heads we can rattle off a few traits that describe most mothers: caring, nurturing, loving, etc. Many of these archetypes have remained remarkably unchanged throughout our history.

In ancient Mayan culture existed a belief called “La Ultima Madre”. During pregnancy Mayan woman were told of two types of mother, “Rainbow Mother” and “Nurturing Mother”. Rainbow Mother does not nurture her children but rather inspires them through the energies of art and dance. Nurturing Mother, on the other hand, raises her children and nourishes them by growing corn.
While browsing a book of quotes about motherhood I came across a quote by Lynn Andrews, an author and shaman, which really caught my attention. Andrews has taken the ancient Mayan belief and made it relevant to the present day mother. She describes two maternal archetypes that most women fall into; Earth Mothers and Creative Rainbow Mothers.
Earth Mothers nurture their children through feeding them and providing for their basic needs. Earth mothers thrive on their responsibilities as a mother. Meeting the needs of her children brings fulfillment to the mother as a person. This is the more iconic role of mother in our society.
Creative Rainbow Mothers, on the other hand, inspire their children without necessarily having meals on the table on time. These mothers nourish there children by inspiring them. Often the lives of the children are structured around the mother’s need to keep her creative energies flowing. For many Rainbow Mothers having a creative outlet is necessary to their general well-being and allows for them to be the best mother possible.
What comes to mind when you think about maternal archetypes and the “role” of a mother? Do you fit into one of these archetypes? Do some aspects of your personality fit more easily into the box you define as motherhood? I think many of us probably fall somewhere in the middle, carrying with us elements of both rainbow mother and earth mother. Over the last two years of raising Rita my personal struggle has been to find the right balance between my nurturing and creative sides.
 Perhaps it is when we nurture our rainbow mother that our inner earth mother is able to shine. Be well!
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We welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Mother to Mother Chat (3) by Jasmine Wood (Rita's Mom)

Mama Bear Wisdom

           Hello Mama's! Many of us who have lived in the New Paltz area and frequented the woods over the years have been lucky enough to see New York State's number one charismatic mega fauna, the American black bear. (If you haven't yet, don't lose hope, their ranges are expanding and the local population is thriving. This being said, fear not, unlike there western cousins, the grizzly bear, black bears are docile (but extremely curious) and it is extremely rare that encounters with black bears become dangerous.)

I have always felt a special connection to bears, even spent two solid years of my undergraduate life researching black bears in the Adirondacks, but I wasn't able to truly identify with the mama bear archetype until I was pregnant with my daughter Rita. We have all heard folks speak of mother bears and their aggressive nature when defending cubs, this chatter usually depicts mama bears as a force to be reckoned with.

Once I began my journey through pregnancy nothing was more important than protecting this tiny little being and the home that she would be born into. It was like I had tapped into a part of myself that I never knew existed before. The internal sensor which goes off inside us moms anytime we are exposed to a hostile environment or find ourselves in a setting that seems like it could pose a threat and/or harbor danger for our family. I enjoyed this feeling! Perhaps, we can call it one of a mother's multiple super powers; This intuitive ability to steer clear of danger and defend our family if necessary, just like a mama bear.

Shortly after my daughter was born we were outside with her in her carrier on my chest, roaming our woodsy property. As we came to the middle of a bridge over a pond, we were surprised to see that on the other side of the pond were a mama black bear and her small cub. At first, she didn't notice us and went about her business of teaching her cub how to forage for food. Being a safe distance and separated by water, we were in a perfect position to observe this black bear family for a while. After a minute or two, tiny Rita let out a piercing wail, like only a newborn can, our position was discovered.

The mother bear immediately perked up both ears, and turned to face us. As Rita continued her wailing, the mother bear stomped both her front feet in our direction, a common movement in bears called, bluffing. She then proceeded to round up her cub and saunter back into the woods. Our hearts were pounding. Not from fear, but rather from total awe that is inspired by having an encounter with one of these majestic creatures.

I wondered what thoughts went through the mother bears mind as she looked my family over, carrying our fragile, wailing newborn. Was it a story woven together through centuries of man living with bears? Could she relate to me on a primordial level being a mother herself? I will never know. But, I like to think that sometimes when animals appear in our lives it is to bring us a message. I feel that this bear silently said words to calm a fellow new, young mother "Follow your intuition" and "You are strong".

Although, I have been able to tap into my inner mama bear, there are moments with my little daughter where I feel so vulnerable in this big old spinning world. So many dangers seem to lurk at every corner. It can be very overwhelming. These feelings usually start to take hold when I am feeling isolated and disconnected from my community.

It is at these times that I am reminded by strong women in my life, such as my grandmother or Mama Donna at New Baby New Paltz, that part of our strength, as women and as mothers is in our vulnerability. Our ability to empathize, to listen with compassion, and to give unconditionally is at the very core of our being. It allows women to look into the past, as well as the future to make decisions for the greater good. What benefits her family will benefit and support all families, human and animal alike.

An article in a magazine I like to read "Pathways to family wellness" entitled "Mama Bear Wisdom" outlines the story of this "intuitive knowing" that I have described in this chat. The article summarizes a book written by author Christiane Northrup called Mother Daughter Wisdom.  If the idea of mama bear wisdom resonates with you, perhaps this book is the perfect read as we head into the long New York winter. It is definitely on my list of "must read literature", let us know your thoughts if you read the book.

So, whether you are having one of those days where you are tapped into your inner mama bear, feeling strong and courageous, or maybe it’s the other kind of day and you feel small and vulnerable. Take some time to reflect on your intuition, what is your gut telling you? But also, take some time to look at the world around, are you missing important messages that the universe is trying to impart to you? We are all connected. From my home to yours, may positive energy abound! Be Well!
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We welcome your feedback! Tell us about how you emanate mama bear wisdom! Or maybe, you find yourself kindred with another animal, turtle or wolf mother, perhaps? Share with us your inner animal wisdom, have any of you created animal totems in which you can draw strength and clarity from in times of need?

Happy Mother's Day! #20

Today marks my 20th Mother's Day! I can't believe it!

Actually, I can believe that. Its been a very full and wonderful 20 years of mothering.

What I really can't believe, is how much I don't like Mother's Day.  Part of it is embedded in my mom's experience. I don't remember a Mother's Day where she didn't end up in tears. Maybe she was unrealistic or naive? She was an only child and we were three!

Another part is that for me EVERY day is Mother's Day. I have spent a lot of time with my children and I still do a lot for them. They are first in my decisions of what to do. I breastfed for years with them. I opted to try for a homebirth for them. I stayed out of work and I went into debt to be home with them.

Most of it has to do with being with a man who criticized and made fun of me and my mothering.

Of all 20 Mother's Day's, not one came with a card from my kid's Father. No card. No breakfast in bed. No flowers. No appreciation. My Mother and Mother-in-Law showed their love on Mother's Day and I am grateful for them.

I am finally free of him. In hindsight, I don't know what took so long. I compare myself to others who have left the father of their children, others who are starting over in new loving relationships and still others who have only known respect and encouragement from their partners. Sometimes I cry when I think about what happened or wonder what I could have done differently.

What if I left when my kids were preschoolers? What if I paid the divorce lawyer with my credit card and did take my ex to court? What if I understood how Family Court works and how much power I did have at that time? But I didn't. I was married "til death do us part." Divorce was unimaginable and with that belief came abuse.

That's where I get stuck.

How would I have known? I work with lots of families in transition now. They use Google and Facebook to find things. That works really well if you know the search terms. I didn't know the search terms. i didn't even know I had a problem. I thought what I was going through was NORMAL. And, it is NORMAL, for a certain cross section of our society. It's even common... but it's not healthy. And, one can choose not to live that way.

What I needed was for someone to see the red flags and volunteer the information.

The biggest difference between who I am now and who I was 20 years ago is that now, I ask for help. Usually. Old habits die hard.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas, from my heart to yours! 

A Surprising Thing Soil and Breastfeeding Have in Common

Have you had a chance to get your hands dirty? Spring is the best time of year to break ground on new outdoor projects, gardening and landscaping alike. If you are like me, that first hint of warm sunshine sends the message to your brain, “time to shift gears” break out the rakes, shovels and grill, it is Spring!
 
That first touch of moist garden soil brings me to a sacred place, an ancient, yet familiar place. The place where many women who came before me, bent to hand and knee, placing their hands in the earth to grow food from seed.
 
Woman and mothers are the caregivers and nurturers to the children and family. She is also, historically, been the primary gardener in households around the world. It is no wonder I feel so at home in my garden with my little daughter tugging at my skirt seams, leaving paths of trodden freshly planted seedlings in her wake. Recent research in neuroscience has shown that when the brain detects the scent of humus (rich soil) it releases oxytocin!
 
Where else have I heard the word ‘oxytocin’? Oh yeah, that’s right, it is one of the primary hormones involved in childbirth, maternal bonding and lactation! Oxytocin is a hormone which plays a key role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy; intimacy with a lover, a child, and apparently the earth itself! We understand it is released immediately after a baby is born and causes everyone in the room to fall in love with the baby, especially mama. This makes sense in an evolutionary sense.
 
This new found knowledge linking the release of oxytocin in response to the smell of soil is revolutionary.  It is a great argument for our deep physiological need to be close with nature! Although, this is a breakthrough in neuroscience it is very logical and easy to understand. I immediately understood this research to be true because I can “feel” it happening to me as I dig my hands down into the dirt year after year. Something magical takes place and I am transported to a peaceful world of contentment where time is no longer essential and all things are connected. When else have I been to this peaceful world? When breastfeeding my beautiful baby girl I, experienced it on a daily basis!
 
When we take the time to nurture life, we nourish a deep relationship for the creation of new life that is fundamentally sacred! I once wrote about SkyWoman, who tended the Earth with her bare hands and deep gratitude.
 
As you break ground this season may you feel the many blessings tending the Earth brings.

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Green Blessings to you and yours!

Mother and Daughter: Friends Forever

Hello Mamas! Today I experienced my first writer's block in a long time. Looking for inspiration, I asked my daughter, “What should mama write about today?” She replied “Write a note about what daddy does at work all day.” That made me laugh! Although I find my husband's career path quite captivating, I will spare you all the details of a day in the life of a Community Outreach Director!
 
Instead, I want to chat about the evolution of mother-daughter relationships! Of course, all of my feelings apply to a mother-son relationship as well, but I chose to highlight mother-daugher for two reasons 1) because I have a daughter (Thanks, Captain Obvious : ) ) But, also because so much time and resources have been dedicated to the precious often tumultuous mother-daughter duo.
 
“I’m always gonna be your friend, always!” Rita exclaimed in her sing-song toddler speak. With those few simple words my heart melted. Lately, Rita and I have had our fair share of battles. Mini battles which stem from day-to-day tantrum prompters like brushing her curly locks, getting shoes and a coat on, or, our latest episode: who gets her out of her crib in the morning, mom or dad. If mom arrives surely she will cry out for Daddy, and vise versa! Very annoying first thing in the morning. After the third morning of her rejecting my open arms and calling for dad, the tears came! Mama’s feelings were hurt!
 
Surely I put my mother’s tender heart through the blender more than a few times! Lately, I constantly have to remind myself not to take Rita’s little mood swings and off color comments personally. Most of all I remind myself: She is only 2 years old and does not understand that some words truly can cut like a knife! In the midst of our mini battles (much worse when Dad is not around to mediate) I have to take a step back and say “Hey, you are the adult here, don’t start throwing your own fit!” I have noticed that for the first time since Rita is born I have given her some “attitude”. Meaning, she hits that last nerve of mine and I get sassy and change my tone with her, almost like sisters! I do not like this; it makes me feel very childish! But, apparently there is still a part of me who feels rejected and disheartened when I feel unappreciated and mistreated by my loved ones. Naturally, right?
 
It seems to me as mothers we often put aside our inner emotions for the sake of others, and it sucks! Sometimes, it is so important to express these emotions to our family members so they understand where we are coming from and we walk away feeling like our emotions are rational and justified. Letting it out every once in a while is way better than blowing your top at any given moment given the proper stimulus. Nobody likes to watch a toddler meltdown, but nobody, I mean nobody wants to watch a mother publicly meltdown!
 
Even though we have all been there, we look upon that mom losing it with her kid in the grocery store and think, "Man, what kinda mother...?” From now on, I am going to make it a point to give a little smile or reassuring “I’ve been there, Sister” because for me, nothing is worse than feeling like you are going through the tribulations of motherhood in isolation!
 
So, can mother and child be friends forever? I absolutely think so! I feel it is our responsibility to help foster that friendly, fun-filled relationship with our children. Not that we should dismiss role of disciplinarian and life guide, but rather that we can have our cake and eat it too. We can raise children who respect us but also think of us as a friend, how revolutionary!
 
Till Next Time, Be Well! To Flourishing Friendships!

Jasmine

Mother's of the World, Unite!

This week is Mother’s Day! I wanted to discuss us Mamas!

We come in all different shapes, colors and sizes, yet our emotions all follow the flow of the same river, the timeless flow of motherhood. As women, we come equipped in our mother’s womb with all of our living, giving powers. Just a few months after conception, the female fetus’s eggs develop, meaning that mothers not only carry their children but also their unborn future grandchildren as well!
 
We are born of this world, yet this world is born of us at the same time, and the winding spiral of universal life dances on within each of us!

For each woman, the call to motherhood comes at a different time. Some of us know from the first moments we remember that we are meant to be mothers! Others, like me, hear a silent call as we move through the adult years. A yearning for the unborn. We see a little baby on the street and our hearts skip two beats. We recognize the time has come to embark on the journey of the childbearing. Still others, find themselves pregnant without knowing exactly how it happened.
 
Each minute approximately 251 babies are born worldwide: I suspect that for each of those babies born there is also a unique style of mothering born! It is time for us as mothers to unite; join hearts and minds together for the next generation: our children’s generation!
 
For too long now, mothers have been separated, divided and underestimated! Stay at home moms versus working moms, vaccine friendly versus no vaccine, natural birth versus medicated birth, disposables versus cloth diapers, home schooler's versus public schooler's, the list goes on and on.

For every mother that loves her child, there is a unique way for her to care for her child. There is no one method that will work for all of us nor, is there anyway of knowing what will work until you try it!

Let’s work together as mothers to embrace the many different styles of parenting out there, whether they are aligned with our personal style or not.
 
Brown Mamas, Short Mamas, Big Boob Mamas, Tall Mamas, Skinny Mamas, Rainbow Mamas, UNITE! 

This Mother’s Day, open your heart to the world of universal possibility! Hug your mothers, and hug your daughters: the future mothers of the world!

Always remember, the vital life force that flows from within you out into the universe, feel the life cord which connects you to everything else. Give thanks for your life giving powers. Give thanks to earth, the mother of us all. Give yourself a hand, kick up your feet, (sip a mimosa perhaps) and enjoy your special day, you deserve it!

The river of Motherhood runs deep, May it quench your thirst!
 
Happy Mother’s Day, Mamas, from my heart to yours! 

Till Next Time, Be Well!

Jasmine

Toddler Sleeping (Or Non-Sleeping)

Ember has now slept through the night 3 times, in her 18 month life – not 3 nights in a row, but rather once every few months we get a joyous surprise when we wake up, look at the clock, see it is 3 AM, 4AM, 5AM, 6AM and she is still asleep! But her more typical night involves random wakings, where she needs one of us to soothe her in some way back to sleep.

I know that sleep experts says, stop soothing her! She needs to learn to fall asleep on her own! Well, I challenge those sleep experts to come to my house for a week and give it a try. She will defy them. I am sure. I have (too) many sleep books all worn out from being fretted over, pages marked, read and reread. None of their methods worked.

It’s getting easier. She wakes up less often and needs less when she does wake, but don’t get me wrong - it’s still hard. For my little family, the most effective solution we have found so far is to do whatever it takes for each one of us to get the most sleep possible, and that's a moving target.

My younger self would never have guessed that sleep would be tied to my mothering identity, but somehow, it is. My self-confidence wavers. At a low, usually after a particularly sleep deprived point, I am very sensitive to judgment. I prickle when I sense people assume that if we only did this thing or that thing she would be sleeping by now. At a self-confident high, I know that we know our daughter best and know what does and doesn’t work for her and we are all doing our best, including Ember.

Toddler Time: Staying Happy, Staying Sane

Once upon a summer afternoon, it was the month of June in the happening town of New Paltz, New York…
 
What to our wondering eyes did appear…?
 
Naked babies of all colors, shapes and sizes playing happily together in a cool pool of shallow water. Is there a more simple pleasure than cooling oneself off on a hot day in a local swimming hole, lake or river?

I think not! Small children seem to get it right off the bat! They gravitate toward water: even the nearest puddle will suffice for a wet romp! These days my daughter’s favorite toy is a spray bottle and I couldn’t be happier!
 
As our daughter grows older and simultaneously bolder, it is better to plan activities that will please her, rather than me and her dad. We love to take her everywhere with us, but these days some engagements and activities match her activity level and energy much better than others. We spend our days working to keep the balance between what we the parents enjoy doing and what our toddler enjoys doing!

The happy medium is activities that keep us all happy, engaged (and sane!). I have so many ideas that could occupy my time, I must often remind myself that my daughter is only a baby once and she is well on her way to three years old in August!
 
I do a mental time check and realize that in two years we will be sending her off to school. I have a small panic attack, take a deep breath, look over at her right by my side and smile.

If it means that most days I spend my morning reading her the same favorite books, instead of in the garden and my afternoons singing her to sleep instead of furthering my career, so be it! I will make the best of every moment we share together and remind myself how lucky I am to spend my days with this unbelievable little person.
 
From my home to yours, enjoy the sunshine! Your body craves it, as does your child's little body! Enjoy all the special activities the summer season has to offer babies and small children here in New Paltz: sun-ripened berries picked fresh from the bush, plentiful woodland swim holes, hiking trails, and friendly community story times, parks and pools, just to name a few!
 
Pop hats on your head, fill a bottle of water, put your baby in a carrier or wagon and go out exploring! Who knows where your baby will lead you today!

How come you're nursing? You're not a tiny baby!

Do you ever wonder how children’s perceptions of breastfeeding evolve as they get older? I do! I am interested in how children’s perceptions change specifically in the period surrounding their wean time, as well as the next couple of years after weaning. It seems obvious to me that a child’s relationship to breastfeeding evolves from the time they are a newborn until the time they wean.
 
What happens then? Breastfeeding which was always a personal experience for the child becomes something of a spectator sport, something which they no longer participate in, yet they still see other children doing. Recently, my 2 ½ year old daughter and I were at the library socializing with other children her age. A nursing toddler, a little girl, Rita’s size, caught her eye. She hurried over and asked “Are you nursing?” The mother replied “Yes” politely, while the nursing toddler continued breastfeeding.
 
Then, Rita asked “How come you're nursing? You're not a tiny baby!” I started to cringe, wondering where this conversation would lead. The mother smiled but paused for a moment and responded “Because she still likes to.” (A great answer in my book!) Rita seemed content with it too and an awkward 'extended breastfeeding' explanation crisis was averted. What strikes me as comical about this situation and others similar to it is that Rita breastfed long beyond being a “tiny baby”. In fact when she weaned, she was quite the big girl, weighing in at over 30 lbs and past 2 years old! Yet, for some reason, at this point Rita only associates nursing with tiny babies.
 
Perhaps, I am the culprit to Rita’s association of breastfeeding with tiny babies. After Rita weaned, she would try to breastfeed from time to time.  I would respond to her nursing attempts by saying, “What are you doing trying to nurse? You're not a tiny baby anymore, you finished up all mama’s milk.” At this, she would laugh and forget about her request.
 
Did I oversimplify the breastfeeding relationship to my daughter throughout the weaning process? Granted she is only two, so many of our explanations to her are simple. But, after our interaction at the library, I felt like I may have fallen short. My daughter and I breastfed for an extended time, yet she didn’t understand our relationship when she saw another toddler-mother pair modeling it! I think I need to educate her on the evolving role that breastfeeding can play in a child’s life and emphasizing that it is unique to each child.
 
Growing up I was not exposed to breastfeeding. I have one memory from my youth of breastfeeding! It was Christmas and the whole family was together. I drifted from the group and wandered into the seemingly empty living room, there was my Aunt Nancy with my newborn cousin, silently nursing. I felt like I had interrupted and didn’t belong, I snuck out just as quietly as I had entered. That’s it, my only memory of breastfeeding comes from my Aunt isolating herself from the rest of my family to go nurse.
 
I will never forget the first time I saw a group of mothers breastfeeding together. At that point I was a breastfeeding mom myself, and it blew my mind! It was as if it kindled an ancient memory in me, as if, deep down my cells, I remembered a time when women gathered and tended their children together. I don’t want my daughter to grow up with the minimal exposure to breastfeeding that I had. I want her to understand it as a natural part of our lives, something that does not need to be secretive or concealed.
 
I want her to know how it filled me with pride to breastfeed her!  It fills me with joy to think about her experiencing this same relationship someday! As she grows and her memories of being at the breast grow foggier, I will continue educating her about the normalcy of breastfeeding (at any size or age). I’m not trying to turn my two year old into a lactivist by any means; it is simply my hope that as she gets older she remains comfortable with the breastfeeding relationship when she observes it! As with most situations in life, a bit of compassion and understanding go along way!

Due Dates, Midwives and Old Wive's Tale

Twins always arrive early. Right?

That's An Old Wive's Tale.

I look at my striated belly with the doughy soft puckers that have never flattened back into that gentle swell that used to be my belly. If the twins had been early, I would not have this.

At 36 weeks, my belly was a gigantic, unblemished orb.

I had 1 or 2 stripes at 37.

By 39 weeks, my midwife and I were laughing at the incredible, angry red vortex radiating from my bellybutton. The stripes were something out of a science fiction story. Like the chick pecking the egg from the inside, it looked like my stomach was getting ready to rip open.

At 40 weeks, I wasn't laughing anymore.

In truth, I wasn't doing much of anything at all! Eating, cat-napping, going to the bathroom, and having sex. Lots of sex and massage. In a futile attempt to bring on labor.

For two weeks I tried every over-the-counter remedy and Old Wive's Tale I could find: Spicy Lamb, Evening Primrose Oil, Caulophylum, spicy food, massaging pressure points, squatting, visualization, Raspberry Leaf tinctures and teas. I read about castor oil and shuddered. I was sure of my dates and my first baby had been born 11 days "late."

On the eve of "The Deadline," the last day my midwife was comfortable having the twins be born at home, I called a Resonance Repatterning Practitioner I worked with during my pregnancy. She had helped me overcome all my fears of being pregnant with twins, of being the mother of twins, of having a homebirth and of having a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC).

She muscle-checked what I was resonating with. She said, "Hmm. Interesting!

You and one of the twins is resonating with the word 'Stop.'"

She muscle checked what I needed to do, had me do some breathing patterns and eye movements and checked the resonance again. The baby and I no longer resonated with "Stop." I didn't feel much different, but I did feel relieved to have some kind of reason for the extended pregnancy.

The next morning, I made an appointment to have acupuncture to stimulate labor. My midwife came to check on me and left. The babies were head down, with strong heartbeats, and active. I felt about the same: Restless, impatient, huge and ready to give birth.

15 minutes after she left, the first wave hit me. Then another, and another. Contractions one on top of the other. My husband held me through them for awhile until we finally realized we should probably call the midwife.

She was surprised, and asked, "How far apart are the contractions?"

He said, "I don't know, they've been coming so fast, I haven't had a chance to time them!"

She reassured us, "I'm on my way back! I'll have to call my husband to bring my kit." It took her about 40 minutes to come back and her husband arrived with her kit shortly after.

The rest of the day is a blur now. The pain was intense and I kept running from it. She and my husband kept bringing me back into focus. By 6:00 pm I was allowing the pushing contractions to do their work and working with them.

Steven was born at 6:35 and Angela slid out, still in her caul, at 7:05. The two babies looked very different in terms of gestation. Steven was 7'10" He looked plump, fresh and covered in vernix. Angela was 6'0" and had very little vernix. Her skin was wrinkled and peeling.

It is still a mystery which twin wanted things to stop! Did Steven want things to stop because he wasn't ready yet? Did Angela want things to stop because she was still so tiny?

I have never forgotten the way the repatterning worked. I learned the system and use it regularly in my work with parents and in my own life. 

The family tale is that Angela kicked Steven out because she wanted to stretch and she was ready be born. After birth, Steven cried inconsolably until she came out. Maybe he cried because he wasn't ready to be born or maybe he missed being plastered up against Angela and thought she was gone forever. I still don't know, but they are very close, still good friends and still have that dynamic of pushing and pulling each other.

Tis The Season for Mastitis

What do Push-up Bras, Holiday Festivities, Exhaustion, Babysitters and too many desserts all have in common?

...Mastitis!

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The Loneliest Time

One of the loneliest times in a new mother's life is in that 2nd or 3rd month after birth. By then, life with a new baby has settled into a routine, (even if it is totally unpredictable). Most moms are healed physically, their milk supply seems to be consistent and their baby is awake for longer periods. The cards, gifts and dinners have slowed to a trickle. For most mothers, its still too early to think about going back to work.

One day, many moms wake up, look around their neighborhood, and wonder who else has a baby. It comes as a surprise to find that most people who live nearby are at work. Your old friends mostly don't have babies and don't "get it". Your baby is definitely too young for the playground.

I was that new mom, once! And that is why there is a New Baby New Paltz.

Toddler as Travel Companion

NBNP081012My toddler, Ember, has flown between Montana and New York every 3 months of her life, and we’re about to embark on another adventure. Each time, I grow anxious wondering how she will do – Will she squirm and cry for the whole flight? Will she sleep at our new destination? Will she adjust to the time difference? And on and on.

Read more ...

Teething

It’s 4 PM and I still have my jammies on. The dishes are piled high, the trash needs to be taken out, toys are strewn across the living room floor. The compost bucket hasn’t been emptied and has attracted the entire fruit fly population of New York . . .

What is going on?

Read more ...

Alone Time

I remember walking into New Baby New Paltz after first moving here about 4 months ago. I saw a little sign that said, “It’s okay to want a break” or something along those lines. A little part of me inside breathed a sigh of relief. It was comforting to hear. After all the transitions that come with moving 2000 miles, my daughter clung to me ferociously, and I had lost the support system that I would turn to for a little break.

Read more ...

Are Baby Slings Safe

Are baby slings safe? The short answer is "Yes." Slings have been safely used for thousands of years.

According the the Consumer Products Safety Commission, in the past 18 years, 14 babies have died in slings. 3 of those babies died in the Infantino Sling Rider, which was recalled in 2010. Over 1 million slings from this company were taken off the market. This sling style is a "bag sling" and it is different from a "ring sling". 

This is a picture of the Infantino Sling Rider.
Infantino Sling Rider

 

 

 

 

 

The problem with bag slings is that babies can easily move into unsafe positions.
Unsafe bag sling positions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This diagram from the Consumer Products Safety Commission shows how the sling is unsafe for an infant. Babies can slide into postions where there airway collapses or is blocked. They are also in positions where the adult can't see their face or feel them breathing.

They further explain it in this video. Consumer Products Safety Commission video

They do not recommend the use of a sling for infants under 4 months.

There are safe ways to carry a baby in a sling from birth up. Use the following guidelines for safety.

1. Baby's belly is towards the adult.

2. Baby is in the frog position or "M" position with their butt lower than their knees.

3. Baby's head is close enough to kiss

4. Baby's face is visible at all times. 

 

The following video shows how to safely wear a baby in a Sakura Bloom ring sling from birth up.

Proper Infant Positioning in a Baby Sling

Sooo Sleepy- 10 Ideas

Millions of parents have survived babies who don't sleep. You can too.
Here are 10 ideas to help you cope:

  1.     Adjust your attitude about nighttime parenting. Babies sleep differently from adults because their brain is growing at a tremendous rate. Sleep happens best when you and your baby are relaxed and comfortable.
  2.     Decide where you, your baby and partner sleep best. There is no right or wrong place for families to sleep. Wherever you sleep the best is the right place for you and your baby. In a recent survey about where their baby sleeps, most parents said: "The crib." When asked where the baby wakes up, most parents said: "My bed." Try a mattress on the floor or a sidecar with your crib. Be flexible, you might need a few different combinations.
  3.     Try soothing techniques besides nursing to get your baby back to sleep. Sometimes nurse her off to sleep, sometimes rock her off to sleep, sometimes sing her off to sleep, and sometimes use tape recordings; and switch off with your partner getting her to sleep. Some babies will refuse this and that's OK, too.
  4.     Dads part in nighttime parenting. It's important for dads and babies to have their own relationship. In dad's arms, babies learn about safety and protection and this helps mothers get more sleep. If nighttime doesn't work, early morning or evening might.
  5.     A peaceful daytime carries over into a restful night. The more you hold your baby and are calm during the day, the more likely this peace is to carry through into the night. If your baby has a restless night, slow things down the following day.
  6.     Create the right bedroom atmosphere. Make bedrooms sanctuaries of sleep. No phones, TV or media. If you have outside noise, use a white noise machine to mask it or a bubbling fish tank, a loudly ticking clock, recordings of womb or whale sounds. (These can all be put on a CD or iPod and repeated.)
  7.     Sensitive Skin. Some babies are not comfortable in synthetic sleepwear like polyester sleepers. Try 100% cotton, bamboo or wool clothing.  Some  babies are also sensitive to new clothing, detergents, perfumes and fabric softeners. They may be unsettled, restless or have a skin rash.
  8.     Be boring. Repetitive, monotonous sounds, humming while rocking and lullabies in a soft tone can all ease babies to sleep. Recordings of lullabies on continuous-play can help you remember the words or inspire you to sing.
  9.     Skin to skin nursing. Dress your baby only in a diaper and sleep on your bed together. Curl up around your baby, face-to-face, tummy-to-tummy, and let the baby nurse. Most babies love the combination of warm milk, your breathing and heartbeat, along with gentle strokes from your fingers and will relax.
  10.     Think about physical causes of nightwaking. If you've tried a lot of different techniques, he might be hungry or there may be an underlying medical problem contributing to your baby's nightwaking.

In short, moms wonder "Why everyone else's babies sleep and mine doesn't". My personal opinion is that a few babies are good sleepers, their parents brag excessively and the rest of us are jealous as hell!

I offer the following for your consideration. Most moms are paying attention to their babies--which is good--that's what babies need. Babies are supposed to have short, light, sleep cycles until they are about 9 months old. It is because their brain is growing and developing so much. It allows them to wake easily if their breathing stops. It is also a way to eat more and grow.

While it is true you can 'sleep train' some babies, it is not necessarily good for them nor does it guarantee they will be good sleepers as children. If you are paying attention to your baby, then you are going to notice that they need to eat frequently and they need you to hold, love and reassure them constantly. All babies need this, even when it is nighttime.

Target Nurse-In

I am hosting a Nurse-In standing in solidarity with Michelle Hickman, a Houston mom who was harassed at Target. She is organizing a series of “nurse-ins” at Target stores across the country on December 28th at 10:00am to raise awareness about a baby’s right to be fed in public.

Wednesday, December 28, 10-11 am Target, Hudson Valley Mall, Kingston.

I invite you to be present, nursing or not. I am going to speak with the manager at Target-Kingston, today. First to interview them with our Breastfeeding Initiative of Ulster County questionnaire and then to let them know what we have planned. I am hoping for an educational table and moms nursing either in a group or all through the store (if we have enough to make a real presence). It would be great if they hosted us!

After I meet with Target, I will send out more details. The event is happening even if they don't want to host us!

Here is the Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/163086817126686/

Please join and comment. This helps to raise the event in the search engine ranking and makes it easier for Ulster County moms to find us, even if we don't know them personally.

Please share this with your friends!

I need help with contacts: The Ulster Department of Health, The Kingston Hospital, and WIC are all agencies in support of breastfeeding. It would be great if any or all of them had a public presence at the event.

Does anyone have a contact at The Daily Freeman? How about the local TV stations?

Love,
Donna

845-750-4402

Here is the story if you want to read more:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/19/target-nurse-in_n_1158595.html
 
http://www.care2.com/causes/target-employees-harass-and-humiliate-breastfeeding-mom.html#ixzz1hASecj7R

Target is in hot water again after employees at a Houston Target store harassed a breastfeeding mother, in contravention of their own corporate breastfeeding policy. Michelle Hickman was Christmas shopping on the evening of November 29, 2011 and had a basket full of planned purchases when her baby woke up and needed to be fed. Hickman found a quiet space to nurse her baby  and was harassed and humiliated by Target staff for doing so. When she complained to Target guest relations about the incident, she was further harassed by the woman on the phone and accused of “flaunting it” and was then dismissed by that woman’s supervisor too.

Hickman told her story to the Best for Babes Foundation, an organization that works to beat the “booby traps” that prevent moms from meeting their own breastfeeding goals. Describing the scenario in the store, Hickman wrote about what happened after she sat down and started nursing her baby, using a nursing cover that completely covered him:

"Two female employees came and verbally asked me to move. The 2nd one told me that Target employees had been told/trained to interrupt nursing and to redirect mothers to the fitting rooms. Even after I informed the 2nd employee of my legal right to nurse in public she still suggested me moving closer to the jean display, turning to face another direction, and also turn my basket a certain way which would have put me practically underneath the jean display and totally barricaded me in. Employee #2 even hinted in a threatening way “you can get a ticket and be reported for indecent exposure” when nothing was being exposed and there was more boob showing from low cut shirts several shoppers were wearing that night."

As this was happening, another three or four employees were standing around watching, shaking their heads, and “making a spectacle” or her nursing. Hickman notes that no one other than store employees even saw her nursing. The next day, Hickman contacted the Target corporate office and spoke to a guest relations officer. She wanted to notify them of the situation and suggest that they inform their employees of a woman’s legal right to nurse in public. She describes what happened on that phone call:

"The lady (I wish I would have gotten her name) told me that she and Target were aware of our legal rights as nursing mothers, but that Target has different policies because they are a family friendly public place. I can’t think of a more family friendly act than breastfeeding and providing the irrefutably proven healthiest diet to my baby. She continued to inform me repeatedly that Target’s policies were different than the law and even went as far to say several times that just because it is a woman’s right to nurse in public even without a nursing cover like I was using, doesn’t mean women should walk around “flaunting it” and was extremely rude."

Hickman asked to speak to the woman’s supervisor but didn’t get any further with the supervisor either.
 
This isn’t the first time that breastfeeding moms have been harassed at Target. It happened in 2006 in Minneapolis and in 2009 in Michigan. Despite these incidents, Target insists that it supports breastfeeding in its stores. In a 2006 statement on its corporate policy, Target wrote:

"Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members. For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable."

A series of “nurse-ins” are being planned at Target stores across the country on December 28th at 10:00am to raise awareness about a baby’s right to be fed in public.

Target Nurse-In Follow Up

What a week! It started when I was interviewed by Time magazine online who gave me a generous quote.

On Monday and Tuesday, I was trying to get the insurance settled for the mall. That went right up until the beginning of the Target Nurse-In.

On Tuesday, I had just gotten out of the shower when my home phone rang. It's ABC News wanting to interview me. (Of course, my phone battery is dying!)

I got everything together, picked up Liz Pickett, from MISN and a friend, (She was the catalyst for this event!!) and went to Kingston.

When Liz and I arrived, there was no table, no chairs. I called. I went to the office. It was locked. I called and left a message. Liz went a little later and said they wanted to talk to me about the insurance. People from Healthy Start, The Institute for Family Health and filmmaker Heather MacLean were already there. Beth Croughan, the reporter from YNN was on her way for an interview.

The mall manager was brusque, said I had misrepresented the event, I didn't have the insurance needed, and they were denying the application. There would be no event. I told him "OK, this conversation is over." He told me I had to leave the mall premises and if I didn't leave, I would be removed. I went back to the group, got my stuff and started taking it back to my car. Liz talked to Mark, the manager of Target. He offered that we could meet in the snack bar.

Beth Croughan had permission to film in the parking  lot, so we went out. I put all the handouts and table displays in my car. Beth got her camera and interviewed me. (She also interviewed Heather MacLean and Katy Weber.)

When we came back in,  we had several mothers from New Baby New Paltz, representatives from Kingston Hospital, Family Institute for Health, WIC, and Journalists Anne Pyburn, Rob Walters. Rob interviewed me in the snack bar, took pictures, made audio and video clips. It is thanks to him that we had such a nice story. Because of that story, we got a lot of publicity.

The Nurse-In? It was really mellow! In total we had 12 moms, their babies and children sitting in the snack bar doing what they always do--tending to the needs of their children and chatting.  OK... it was a little more excitement than usual, but nothing abnormal!

Thank You to the Target manager, Mark, for his helpfulness and kind words. I know several of you got to talk with him.

A BIG Thank You to the participants:

Moms with babies/children: (please let me know if I didn't get your name right)
Evon Valentine
Kathy Puffer
Kristin Koffman
Kelly Burns
Katy Weber
Kim McArdle
Antonia Kannengeiser
Nancy Hoose
Rachel Loshak
Nicole Aulicino
Erin Bertholf

Professionals from the Breastfeeding Initiative of Ulster County (BIUC)

Laurie Smith, Community Heart Health (?)
Matt Maher, Institute Family Health
Liz Pickett, Maternal Infant Services Network
Gabriela Franze, Institute Family Health
Donna Bruschi, New Baby New Paltz
Laurie Mozian, Kingston Hospital
Amy, WIC
Natasha Grant, Institute Family Health(?)

And a big thank you to the Media, for their accurate and pro-breastfeeding slant on all their stories!

Time Online
YNN Channel 6, Beth Croughan
ABC News
Times Herald Record
Daily Freeman http://dailyfreeman.com/articles/2011/12/28/news/doc4efb70760eeff759336853.txt
Mid-Hudson News http://midhudsonnews.com/News/2011/December/28/Breastfeeding-28Dec11.htm
NPR
Anne Pyburn, journalist
Rob Walters, journalist
Heather MacLean, Filmmaker

I think all our publicity is posted on the New Baby New Paltz Facebook page. You don't need to be on Facebook to read it--it's public.

I also want to thank all of you who were there in spirit. If babies weren't babies, I know a lot more of you would have been there. It's hard to coordinate an event and hope your baby isn't sleeping, sick, or vacationing. I'd like to also acknowledge all of you employed moms, who were paying the bills so your families can be comfortable. In reality, you are working 2 jobs and I give you props for all your sacrifices.

The Myth of Sleeping Through The Night

Waking every hour or two to nurse ALL NIGHT LONG. Ugh. Whether you do it for a few days because your baby is teething or have been doing it for months or years, it takes a toll on you.

Sick of it? Probably.
Cranky? Yes.
Tired? Definitely.

First, I'd like to address some common misconceptions:

Myth # 1 Formula fed babies sleep through the night. Some do, some don't. Formula is harder to digest so babies do stay fuller longer. Formula fed babies have completely different sleep cycles from their parents. That's why experts recommend that parents who formula feed do not share a bed with their baby.

Myth #2 Sleeping through the night is a desired outcome. You really don't want your baby sleeping all night until they are 9 months or older because their brains are not fully developed. Some babies go to sleep, forget to breathe and can't wake themselves to breathe. This is SIDS and it's different from suffocation or overlaying. Things that help the baby wake to breathe are breastfeeding, sleeping with the parents in the same bed (if breastfeeding) or room (if not).

Myth #3 "Everyone else is sleeping through the night." In 14 years of counseling mothers, I have met a number of babies who slept well from birth until 3-4-5 months when they started teething. I have met a only handful of babies who are good sleepers even through that period. Many babies settle down to predictable naps and 4-5 hour stretches at night by 9-12 months with occasional interruptions for growth spurts, teething, or overstimulation.


Some babies are not good sleepers. What I have found these babies have in common is one or more of the following:

    Parents who are not good sleepers
    Disharmony in family relationships
    Stress from moving, unemployment, siblings, etc.
    Mom working
    Lack of nursing limits

I'll just cover the last two for now. If Mom is working, many babies catch up on their "mom time" at night. Being connected is essential for babies to survive. It's not just something nice to have. It is essential. It's hard to accept and usually something has to give. Either go to bed earlier, get some domestic help, let things go or work less. This really is important to do for the first year or so.

When your baby is about a year and eating a good amount of complementary food, you can start setting nursing limits. If you plan on weaning around a year, this will come naturally because you are clear that you want to end the breastfeeding relationship. You understand your baby may fuss and find ways to deal with it.

If you would like to have Baby-Led Weaning, you may find yourself in conflict because babies usually don't agree with you refusing to nurse. Up to this point you have probably nursed whenever and wherever. You can give yourself permission to set some limits on nursing. When you start with little requests, you keep the balance in your nursing relationship. Up until now, you have given and given. Your baby can learn basic principles of human relations in a gentle way.

Here are some things to try:

Substitution:  Nursing is a fast way to get calories. Limiting nursing will mean a hungry baby if you don't keep them fed and watered.
Distraction: A howling fire engine racing by wins hands down over nursing. Keep a supply of novel, or huggy distractions at hand.
More Love: Make a point of snuggling, smootching, holding, and wearing your toddler without nursing.
Not here, Not Now. When your toddler can understand, you can insist on, "No nursing in the store." "No nursing in the dark." "You can have milk now and nursing next time." "You can nurse until the count of 10 or the ABC song." "You must keep my shirt on."

This is an important skill to learn. It helps your baby feel secure and it helps you feel good as a mom.

My Love to you and your family,
Donna
(845) 750-4402