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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!

How can I leave my baby?

A New Mother’s Journey with Separation Anxiety:

Hello Mamas!

When my daughter was first born there was clearly no need for separation…

We were attached physically at the breast for long hours of each day and night, but more intensely we were attached emotionally and spiritually in ways I am still learning to understand…

Being a stay at home mom from day one, I felt continually blessed to have the time to find natural rhythms to attune each day together too. I remember so vividly in the first week’s home from the hospital how days passing brought so much change! Each night that we made it through together, the cozy three: Mama, Pop and Baby Rita Bear in our little nest seemed liked such a triumph. Each day shed new light on how we could best meet our little daughter’s needs.

For the first two years of my daughter’s life our exclusive breastfeeding relationship kept us within arms reach most days and nights. In the past year, as my daughter has grown from 2 to nearly 3 years old I have left her several times to attend to adult activities which did not lend themselves to bringing her along.  We left once for an indoor rock concert and then again for an adults-only wedding reception. More recently, I was given a gift from my dearest friend of 2 nights of concert tickets for my husband and me.

Since our night’s out are few and far between these days my heart jumped at the thought of two nights out dancing with my darling husband and best friend. Then, the mother in me kicked in and I had my first taste of panic attributed to the obvious fact that if we were to accept this gracious gift it meant we would have to leave our daughter for two nights!

My husband and I both struggled with similar emotions: “Would we be able to enjoy ourselves at the concert if our minds were elsewhere thinking about our baby and her well being?” An answer that could not be determined…For 6 months leading up to the concerts, July 4th weekend, I had mini panic attacks filled with separation anxiety at the mere thought of leaving little Rita. As the date drew nearer the panic worsened. It would come to me in the middle of the night, first thing when I woke in the morning.

Finally, it was the Friday we were set to take off to the concert dropping Rita off at her Grandparents for the weekend. I asked my husband & friend “Should I just stay tonight and meet you at the show tomorrow?” My best friend responded “I understand your sentiment, but I think if you choose not to go it would be out of personal fear and not general interest/well being for your daughter…”

This statement rang with truth. I had left my daughter for events before and she experienced no separation anxiety herself beyond a mere ‘Where’s mommy?’ before she went to sleep.

It was not my daughter who suffered from separation anxiety, it was me! But, it wasn’t just me, it was dad too! Our emotional tethers to our daughter were so strong at times they seemed impossible to break, if even for an evening!

I then took the time to analyze our individual fears. My husband and I were both really worried about my father taking little Rita out to fireworks on the Fourth of July, not only is she usually in bed by the time fireworks start but we were worried about her being out on the roads on one of the busiest nights of the year. When I expressed these emotions to my father he basically dismissed them by touting his good driving skills.

Since trying to make my daughter, myself, my husband, and my father all happy was starting to really stress me out I decided to write my dad a letter describing my emotions, separation anxiety and why I felt it would be best if they nixed the firework plans for this year. After reading the letter my dad told me that ‘He would be there to help me work through my emotions and feelings of separation anxiety’ and also that they would stay in that night skipping the fireworks! Yes, mission accomplished, all parties satisfied, all emotions rationalized:  May empathy always reign supreme!

While I was away that weekend my dad, Rita’s grandpa, met another man whose wife experienced severe separation anxiety to the point where she didn’t even want to make trips to the gas station without her young children in tow! It made him realize that his daughter was not going through these emotions in isolation. In fact, my mother had extreme anxiety issues when it came to leaving her children in the early years too! I should also point out that little Rita had a great weekend with her grandparents, totally spoiled, filled with trips to the zoo, parties with sandboxes and ice cream, too! Also, Rita’s father and I were given some much needed adult alone time which replenished our strong bond as companions and lovers!

I hope that this story can shed some light on the issue of separation anxiety from the perspective of a mother as opposed to a child. The major lesson I have learned through leaving my daughter each time is that the only way it gets any easier is by doing it and working through the emotions, but most importantly, by doing it in your own terms. Do not be afraid to vocalize how you feel time spent with a babysitter, relative or otherwise, should be spent! As they are your child, you know them the best, and ultimately all parties will come out of the experience feeling fulfilled!

Till Next Time, Be well!

Jasmine

Your baby is using you as a pacifier

 

Let's take a closer look at that statement.

First, pacifiers don't have any milk. They are something to suck. Specifically, an object to suck. A firm object that is in the same category as hard candies, lollipops, popsicles, pens, spoons, and straws to name a few others. Generic, easily lost, easily replaced.

The biggest difference between you and a pacifier is that even when your baby is lazily flutter sucking, they are getting everchanging droplets of milk. Milk specially designed for your baby's age and gender, full of antibodies, hormones, nutrients, and things that we don't even know exist. That, in itself, should encourage you to let your little one suckle.

Why is suckling so important?

Suckling relieves pain.

In an adult, the need to suck is clinically and jokingly called an oral fixation. It's so pervasive that there are thousands and thousands of jokes and beliefs about it. It's a habit that is hard to break because it is not a habit. It is a need. Humans need to suck. It's how we survive as infants with eating as well as soothing. If we suck our thinb, a pacifier or breastfeed until we wean ourselves, the need is integrated and we grow out of it.

Here's another reason to let your baby suckle at the breast.

It's so easy. There are a hundred reasons why your baby or child may need to breastfeed. Hunger and thirst are obvious. But what about being too cold or hot? Overwhelmed? Bored? Tired?

Even when you don't know exactly why your baby is needing to suckle, nursing your baby or child will heal a multitude of woes.

Intertwined with feeding is our need for attention. It is through interacting with other humans, especially our mother that we learn everything we need to know in the early years. Breastfeeding engages all five of the baby's senses at once. There is a constant interaction between mama and baby gazing at each other, talking and listening, touching and stroking. Every single interaction fires neurons in the brain and makes connections. This is one of the reasons breastfed babies have higher IQs.

What it really means.

In its primal way, your baby is saying, "Mama, I need you. I need you, the life giver, the one who nurtures me best. I need you to comfort me. I need you to help me through this time until I feel good again. I need you to nurse me while I feel uncomfortable. Someday I will be able to tell you I'm sad, hungry, lonely, angry, hot, cold, lazy or that I just don't know what's wrong, but I can't do that yet.

"I need your milk. It's made just for me. I need your eyes looking into mine, to know that I am safe. I need to know that you are near. I need to hear your reassuring voice soothing me back into happiness. I need to taste your milk that leads me drip by drip into comfort and contentment. I need to feel your skin, your touch, your grounding presence bringing me back when I fly off into the unknown.

"Most of all, I just need to know that you are with me, human being to human being."

Why it's so hard to do.

The challenge I see in my work with moms is that parents feel overwhelmed at the duration and intensity of caring for newborns. It's easy to breastfeed for a little while, but sometimes, babies cry endlessly. A crying baby can cause you to feel all kinds of horrible feelings. When you are upset, it makes it very hard for your baby to calm down.

When you feel overwhelmed, you will try anything to stop that baby from crying. As a result, you rush through one thing after another trying to solve the unknown problem and upset the baby even more by overwhelming them with even more sensations and processes.

Learning to be still and present with an upset baby is partly instinctual but mostly it's a learned skill. The first step is to understand that humans usually only need to be listened to and comforted when they are upset. They don't always need a problem solved in order to return to happiness. 

Back to the pacifying.

If suckling at your breast works, then use it. What better way to teach your child to connect with other humans than by offering comfort and company of breastfeeding during the challenging life stage of infancy. Offering (or forcing) a baby to use a pacifier teaches them to look for comfort from objects, not humans.

When you hold your baby and let them suckle, they learn empathy and compassion. They learn how to help others in times of suffering. For what is the purpose of being human with our ability to talk and share, if we can not connect with another in our darkest, most painful hours?

My love to you and your family....

Love,
Donna

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!

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