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The Myth of the Pioneer Woman

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Stoic, unflinching, rifle-in-hand warding off bears and wildcats.

Remember Ma in Little House on the Prairie. Can you think of anyone more idealized? She had tons of patience, home-making skills, doctor, childbirthing and childraising skills. She took care of cows and chickens and fed her family. She quilted and made clothes for her family. She prayed and sang and taught her children. She was good at almost everything. But there was one thing she wasn't good at.

Ma wasn't good at was making friends.

Because she was a Pioneer Woman, wedded young to a man she barely knew, with 3 children before you could say Kindergarten. They set off with small children in a covered wagon walking across miles of prairie. She was the wife of an ambitious man who wanted land and lots of it. And she didn't make friends mostly because there weren't any to be made.

We don't really know how Ma felt about things.

Her idealized story was told by her adult daughter many years later. Could she have been lonely? Of course she was! Loneliness is a common human experience. Could she have regretted her decisions? Most likely. Most people do. Was she ever a little 'postpartum?' Could be!

She had a stong religious faith and in the years they were near a church, it was an integral part of her life. Faith is an essential piece of a heathy life.

But her life was hard, especially by our modern day measure and mostly, she faced it alone because she had no choice.

When we are going hours or days without being able to share your feelings or talk to another adult, we can feel a little postpartum and blue. We can feel overwhelmed by listening, problem solving and entertaining babies and children all day.

And, sometimes...you are exhausted and something in you snaps!

You may find yourself in tears in a full blown pity party because it's the umpteenth week of sick. Or yelling at your baby or child because they won't stop whining or crying. And, you feel ashamed. And, you don't know what to do about it or how to stop yelling at your poor child. And you don't know how to stop feeling so sad and overwhelmed.

If we remember Ma, and all the other prairie women, so patient and stoic...

then we feel worse because obviously something in us is flawed and awful because a sick and whiny child is not locusts or bears or masked marauders. It's just a whiny child.

Ma didn't have a choice, but you do.

Being in a funk doesn't necessarily mean therapy or medication, although that can be helpful.

What you probably need most of all is some friends. Someone who has a child just your child's age who is going through what you are going through. A kind person who can listen nodding her head, offering support and empathy. Before kids, you may have been content with casual acquaintances and your partner. You also had time to drink deeply from your creative well with your work, hobbies and other enjoyable things.

Now that kids are your work, your hobby and your everything you may feel like you are in a deep funk. A lot of it is because you don't have any friends.  When we feel connected, we don't feel lonely.  Friendship makes any challenge easier and more enjoyable.

That's easy for you so say but...It's not so easy to find a friend!

I've been hosting social circles for two decades. It's the truth--It can feel like you are in the middle of a a prairie in Nebraska. But we aren't in the middle of a prairie. Women and children are everywhere and nearly all of them feel lonely.  And many feel awkward doing anything about it. But to have a friend who is going through the same things as you is worth a hundred bottles of Zoloft. We all need friendship.

Please take a more relaxed look at friendship.

  • Start like it's dating - "Let's meet at Café Mama."
  • Accept awkward - There was this time I went on a blind date play date and the women answered the door, picked up some food off the floor and popped it into her mouth.
  • Be flexible - If you and your mama soulmate love each other but your children don't play well, text each other often but meet at the playground.
  • Cultivate different kinds of friends - Prenatal yoga pals, baby friends, hike buddies and middle-of-the-night besties. You need all of them.
  • Be proactive and be a friend - Give out your phone, follow or friend request on social media.
  • Assume good intent -  if you get stood up, stay calm. Most likely a diaper blowout, a super-nap or rough night is to blame. Reschedule!

Simplify.

It's my heartfelt wish that no mama be lonely. I've done much of the ground work for you to find friends. A consistent schedule, age and interest matched and lots of publicity. Hundreds of women have come to New Baby New Paltz and made friends at Cafe Mama. Funny thing is that many of them have been modern day "Ma's" here with their ambitious husbands for a year or a career, because somehow moving makes is obvious that you need to make friends.

But the groups only work if we all show up.

Having friends really is that simple.

My love to you and your family.     --Donna

 

 


 

Is Night Weaning Necessary?

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You've decided to night wean your baby or child.

And unlike your friend's experience, it has not been going very well. 

 

How can this be? 

Children are all different in how they handle weaning. Some kids are easy going and others are not. Some parents are very sure that it's the right time for weaning and others aren't. They are exhausted and grasping for any end to their exhaustion. When you are tired, it's hard to think clearly and make a plan that will work for you and your child. 

Before you continue weaning, take some time in figuring out why your child is nursing so much, and also why it's important for you to wean. Often times we are so tired that we forget this essential step. When you know why it's important to your child, you can compensate for not nursing in a way that will eventually be acceptable to your child. 

And there aren't any "right answers" here. It's your family and your lack of sleep!

Here are some common reasons why children will nurse non-stop at night:

Is the child missing you during the day and catching up at night? Are they hungry from skipping meals or eating an early dinner? Are they scared of the dark? Or are they anxious when they are apart from you? Is your exhaustion or something else upsetting you and causing you to act in a way that makes them worried? Are they teething or sick? 

These are all reasons why babies and children don't sleep and not coincidently, they are also reasons why adults don't sleep. In fact, your own poor sleep habits or sleeplessness can be keeping your child in a light sleep that's easy for them to wake up from.

Breastfeeding is soothing and effective in easing a child back to sleep in all of these examples. It's completely fine to continue if it's ok with you and working for the child. It is the path of least resistence and at some point, your child will outgrow it and sleep for hours and hours. In fact, you may find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night wishing you had some company. But that is a little ways off.

If night nursing is not working, then night weaning may be the best, but certainly not the only, solution.

Spending more time snuggling or playing together during the day can create a secure bond that stands the night separation test. Feeding a meal right before bed can keep your child settled through the ups and downs of sleep cycles. Having a trundle bed or sleeping mat next to the parent's bed has also allowed everyone to get more sleep and decreased demand for night nursing. Snuggling, comforting and offering water or milk are all things that can be tried before allowing nursing. Often they work. Having the other parent soothe them during a stretch of the night so you can get a solid block of sleep can help you handle a four-hour nurse-athon in the early morning or late evening.

Here's the secret: when a parent decides that night weaning is simply the best course of action, a child will comply without a prolonged fuss.

When you are sure weaning is the best thing and have a plan of action, you are firm and clear. You will offer water or food, snuggles and empathy and be present if your child protests. When you know deep in your heart that weaning is the very best solution to your problem, you don't give in, not even when your child pitches a fit. And they learn that this is the new normal and they get used to it. Children know that life isn't perfect and that they don't always get their way. If they sense any wiggle room, they will explore it to see if they can get what they want after all.

You've probably learned how to handle many battles of will. Car seat refusal is a common experience where parents don't give in and children learn to accept it. When you are conflicted because you aren't sure refusing your child's demand is the very best option, your child picks up on that and will push until you give in.

Times when night weaning may not be the best course of action.

If your baby is under 12 months, they probably need a few feeds during the night in order to get enough calories. If you are working during the day, your baby still has vital needs to be with you. Night time is their only option to connect with you. If you have refused to breastfeed for a few nights and notice that your child is unhappy during the day or is regressing into behaviors like biting or tantrums, they may not have been ready. Its always ok to reverse your decision and apologize. You will probably have a clingy child for a few weeks before they resume their previous ways. 

If you are exhausted and not functioning, then something has to give. It can either be you, your relationship with your child or something else. Putting it into simple choices like this can help you clarify what is important to you and help you make a decision you can live with. 

Postpartum Stash

water mason jar new baby new paltzNo matter when your baby is due, you are probably thinking of all the things you need to get ready for the baby’s first weeks at home.

(Whether you are actually doing it is another thing--PROCRASTINATORS UNITE!)

Stashing these household essentials before baby arrives will make you feel like you’ve got your sh*t together even while you’re fumbling around with your newborn baby.

***BFF ALERT***    (If your BFF is a new mom, you can bring her these instead of ANOTHER newborn outfit.)

Take a tip from the seasoned mamas at Café Mama!

I've compiled this list of things they wish they had and things they are glad they had! Nothing makes you feel crappier with a newborn (pun intended!) than finding out you’ve run out of wipes or toilet paper!

Here’s the top ten things Café Mama mamas declared essential:

1. Freezer meals  

Even if you don’t have a deep freeze, you can still prioritize and pack a lot of food away. Make double meals and freeze half. One mom did this and had over twenty meals stored away in a deep freezer before her baby arrived. Adding what friends and family brought, she didn’t have to cook for a month! PRO tip: Buy a pack of sharpie markers and a box of 60 or 100 multi-sized food containers. Label EVERYTHING.

If you aren’t into cooking (or don’t have time,) find a few favorite frozen meals from Sam’s Club or your favorite supermarket. Or ask for frozen dinners on your registry. Another idea is setting up a Meal Train.

2. Snacks  

After giving birth, most moms said they were even hungrier than while pregnant! And it’s that you don’t have time to eat, either. Buy a variety of your favorite snack foods for second breakfasts and middle of the night snacks. And if you have older kids, get their favorites too.

Mamas listed sliced cheese, crackers, nut mix, dried fruit, granola, dried seaweed, tortilla chips, hummus, yogurt, protein, nut or granola bars, kefir, chocolate bars, smoothie mixes and some yummy drinks. Recovering from birth and breastfeeding makes you thirsty and many mamas appreciated a treat like coconut water, Bolthouse drinks and kefir. (Skip the artificial colors though--it’s a myth that blue Gatorade makes more milk.) A nice bottle of wine or beer is a classy way to toast your significant other for a job well done! And yes, you can have a drink and still breastfeed!

3. Toilet paper and wipes

All those yummy snacks and drinks ^^^^ mean you need toilet paper. And guests like it too. Bring those big ol’ packs and a couple of rolls of paper towels right into the bathrooms so they are accessible.

(Note from Donna: As a Lactation Consultant, I go into people’s homes to help them with breastfeeding. Before I start, I always wash my hands carefully and then dry my hands on the damp and well-used hand towel hanging by the sink. IMHO...Paper towels in the bathroom are a thing everybody should have.

4. Soap, shampoo, conditioner and razors

The MOST depressing thing in the world is when you need a shower more than food or sleep, the baby obligingly falls asleep, and you hop into the shower only to find you don't have one of these things. And believe me, after having a baby, most of the time you will not be thinking of shaving, but if you do, it will be possible.

5. Toothbrushes and toothpaste

Imagine feeling totally triumphant when you present your mother-in-law with a brand new toothbrush and her very own toothpaste because she forgot hers!

Yesssss! New Mama for the win!

6. Paper plates, cups, napkins, and foil pans

It’s not 'eco' but something’s got to give. It’s a short time in your life and unless you have a maid, nobody’s got time for dishes.

7. Dishwasher detergent and soap

At some point, the paper plates will run out, or you will feel guilty about the forests and landfills, or you will miss your favorite coffee cup and you will do dishes again.

8. Garbage and kitchen trash bags and Ziplock bags, snack, sandwich and gallon

Another shocking thing is the amount of garbage a tiny baby generates. Between disposable diapers, gift wrapping and product packaging, you will have lots of trash. Ziplock bags have a multitude of uses like organizing your diaper bag, sorting small toys, packing snacks and storing breastpump parts in the fridge between pumping (so you only have to wash them once a day.)

9. Free and clear laundry detergent and stain remover

Especially if you have older children, you will be doing laundry day and night in the early weeks. Most first-time mamas launder with Dreft and most second-time mamas stocked up on their favorite “Free and Clear” detergent for simplicity's sake.

10. Sibling Bling

They are excited about a baby! And after they understand the new rules, you may be hearing things like, "Mommy, I'm bored!" and "When is the baby going home?" Browse the dollar store for books and bling to entertain siblings. Pack up their "I'm-bored-with-this" toys for a well-deserved rest until after the baby comes. Pick up a few things at garage sales and consider investing in a much-deserved "Big Bro" gift like a bike or baby doll.

This stash of household items will alleviate stress and unwanted trips to the store with a newborn.

Bonus! If you start stockpiling during pregnancy, you have time to wait for sales and find coupons and and save money while you are at it.

Here's the copy/paste quicklist

Freezer meals, sharpie marker, plastic containers
Snacks, drinks
Cheese, hummus, yogurt, kefir,
Bolthouse drinks, coconut water, yummy drinks
Nut mix, dried fruit, granola,
Tortilla chips, crackers, protein, nut or granola bars,
Chocolate bars, tea, decaf coffee
Smoothie mixes, dried seaweed
Wine, beer
Toilet paper, paper towels and wipes
Soap, shampoo, conditioner and razors
Toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste
Paper plates, cups, napkins, foil pans and ziplock bags
Garbage bags, kitchen bags
Laundry detergent, dish detergent, dish soap, sponges
Stain remover
Sibling Bling

The Heart Knows No Reason

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One of our local Mamas lost her baby this week.

You may know who she is, or not. How it happened is a story for another time. This story is about her grief.

We invest our whole selves into our children. We give them our bodies, our blood, our milk, and our hopes and dreams. Most importantly, we give them our love.

We give so much and we expect something back.

Maybe "expect" isn't exactly the word you might use, but something along those lines. Maybe we hope and dream of some reward. We dream of nurturing a little baby, showing off adorable outfits, sharing smiles and songs. We hope for Little Leaguers and Scouts following in our footsteps. We imagine our children surpassing our achievements--becoming doctors or millionaires--maybe a famous artist. Most of all, we imagine them thriving and happy in our arms.

Losing a baby is something that terrifies most mamas.

Most of us have nightmares about our children dying or disappearing and sometimes it happens. Many moms have had miscarriages or a "lost twin." Some chose abortion only to find themselves grieving. Others suffer through a baby or child's cancer and say goodbye, over and over again, until the child finally passes.

When it happens, it seems like the world will end. The loss causes a deep emotional wound to her heart. She asks, "Why Me?" "Why this baby?" "What will I do now?" "How can I go on living?" 

When a baby dies, there is no standard procedure to follow.

Everyone wants to be included in the birth of a baby. We buy gifts and bring food. We say blessings and lend a hand. Losing a baby is not the norm. Most babies do grow up.

Nobody has the right words, if there are right words, to ease a mother's suffering. They feel awkward and unsure of how to handle their own feelings. So people do nothing, or they say and do too much.

Friends and family may decide the mama wants to be alone and avoid her. This avoidance may increase her hurt because she probably feels responsible in some way and the silence comes across as judgement. "What if" and "If only" run a constant loop in her mind. 

The truth is, she probably does want to be alone, but not all the time.

She does want to talk about her baby, her dreams and her loss. What she needs is someone to hear her disappointment, without judgement or fixing, as many times as she needs to share it.

She does not want to hear "Oh, you are young, you'll have another one." She will never have this baby, again. Losing a child is hard enough and to make it worse, a lifetime of her hopes and dreams have been shattered. She will not breastfeed this child or help them learn to walk. There will be no nursery school or bike riding. No graduation and no grandchildren. 

Whether she sees it or not, people will go silent when she enters a room and whisper about her. She may feel ashamed, because maybe there is some known or unknown flaw in her or her partner, that caused this tragic loss; that she must somehow explain and give a reason for the loss; and that explanation must have meaning and value; it must show that everybody tried as hard as they could, and it wasn't enough. Or maybe, there is a person or a hospital, or a situation that can take the blame for causing the death. 

The heart knows no reason. It can't understand logic. It heals when forgiveness is felt and when the grieving is complete.

After a time, she must hide her grief because it's been a week, or a month, or 5 years.

And people will say, "It's been long enough. Time to move on." Even though telling her this doesn't speed up the process. And they will probably not notice how uncomfortable they are with her sadness. 

It can take a shocking amount of time to fully grieve any loss, but mothers who have lost a child say, "You never get over the loss of a child." 

She needs time to grieve, to let go of her dreams and adjust to the new way of life. And most of all, she needs people to be empathetic and patient.