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Archive for the ‘Breastmilk does a body good’ Category

Want to hear something shocking? My most popular post ever was written in 2009. That was eons ago. Nobody really cares about my thoughts on Israel, my struggles with immigrant parenting, or what’s happened since I gave up breastfeeding.

So yes, seven years ago, almost five years into my parenting – and breastfeeding – career, I produced a ranty-though-cogent screed about breastfeeding that still attracts more than 10 readers a day.

I find this stunning.

Nobody comments on or links back to this post. The mommy wars have cycled back over this debate many times in the years since, but I must have inadvertently had fantastic SEO to keep getting page views. Good for you, 2009 me – who didn’t even work in marketing!

baby tani

This squishy newborn is almost 10.

Now that I have some emotional distance from breastfeeding (although, to be fair, I don’t really, because one of my best IRL friends has a pretty new and very squishy nursling RIGHT NOW), I am not really encouraged. Women and babies are still unsupported by hospitals, employers, and governments. Formula companies are still backed by the very deep pockets of drug manufacturers and violate the law when it comes to marketing their product.

But in this decades-long debate, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions.

Conclusion One: Taking Sides

If you dis breastfeeding, you might be:

  • anti-science

Breastmilk seems to be one of the most studied substances in the world. Why can’t we just leave it alone already? Because artificial milk substitutes keep trying to imitate it, that’s why. That’s how badass this stuff is. All our 21st century science can’t capture that lightning in a jar.

  • anti-woman

Let’s allow women to do something with their bodies that’s not pleasuring a man. (This is so heteronormative I don’t even want to bring it up, but let’s look at the messaging coming out of, say, the United States government or mainstream Hollywood.)

  • have body image issues

Pregnancy and breastfeeding will change a woman’s body in ways both temporary and permanent. One thousand percent. That is difficult to handle, sometimes, for both women and their partners.

If you dis formula feeding, you might be:

  • anti-worker

Shift work without pumping breaks is a real thing. Family “unfriendly” jobs and industries are real things. Countries without paid maternity/family leave are real things (the United States, in particular, stands out here).

glass bottle skull

Nope, not poisonous

  • anti-reality

Families have all sorts of reasons why breastfeeding is not possible – medical issues on the part of the mother or baby, economic pressures, family realities (a widowed father, a two-dad family, a baby being raised by someone other than his or her parents), or other things. Passing your holier-than-thou judgment on these situations doesn’t make you a breastfeeding advocate. Remember that wet-nursing has been a career choice for thousands of years – largely rendered unnecessary by the advent of formula.

  • paternalistic

Really, women can’t make up their minds and need to be told what to do?

Conclusion Two: Check Your Privilege

If you’re busy on the internets vociferously defending your position, this means you are in a privileged position. If you’re dealing with working and pumping breastmilk (like many) OR traded your paying job with people who wear underwear to be an unpaid manager of people who don’t (like many others), you have a certain amount of economic privilege.

I honestly do not know people who have traded one kind of baby milk for another due to being squeezed for money, but it must happen. Sometimes a paycheck or scrimping on childcare is simply more vital than how a baby gets fed.

There’s more.

If you can safely formula feed, it means you have access to clean water or electricity to boil it or money to buy it.

If you can safely breastfeed, it means your partner is on board with it and you are (probably) physically safe.

If you can work and pump, it means that your state or country or employer protects that privilege.

If you can leave your baby with formula and a paid babysitter, nanny, or day care, it means you can afford it. Maybe you’re just breaking even to advance your career, but others who can’t might stay home and breastfeed.

If you have nursing bras, nursing clothes, access to a breastpump, books, and more, it means you have means. Maybe not a lot of means, but possibly good health insurance. Maybe generous friends. All of these are not to be taken for granted.

SO….

If you want to formula feed, nobody should stop you.

If you want to breastfeed, even for years, even at night, even in your bed, even in public, even without a nursing cover, even in a place of worship, nobody should stop you.

And we need to take our righteous indignation for what’s “wrong” and use that adrenaline-driven excitement to support parents and families. If the idea of going up against the drug lobby gets your motor running, do that. If you want to call or tweet your congressional reps to demand family leave, do that. (Canadians and Scandinavians can take a moment to bask in their glorious rights.) If you want to help a mom who is working shifts, struggling to pump, or cluster feeding every evening from five until eleven, bring her family some dinner and offer to fold some laundry (I guarantee she has some). If you hear of a financially struggling family that has requested formula, go buy it.

Perhaps I have mellowed in my old age – though admittedly there are still plenty of things that get me riled up. But babies who are being loved and cared for are not something to sneeze at, regardless of how they’re receiving their nutrition.

See other adorable mammals here and here.

(Thanks to Gila for the advice.)

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It’s been a long time since I went on a breastfeeding rant. Did you miss it? Ok, then, buckle up.

Like Ask Moxie, I am not going to link to the cover of Time magazine because it horrifies me so. Not because a little boy (not baby, boy–wearing camouflage pants and with a buzz cut) is nursing from his slender, blond, relaxed young mom, but because this! is everything that anti-nursing-in-public crusaders have been warning us about! You can’t look away, ha ha, it’s a magazine cover! And if you open the magazine, you might be faced with MORE pictures of…this woman’s tank top.

This pose is provocative, a way to generate buzz and will, probably, create even more vilification of nursing moms.  (I don’t want to link to DovBear either.)

But what REALLY infuriates me is that it is so incredibly staged. If you are nursing an almost-four-year old, unless they have some sort of developmental delay or extreme nutritional need, they are not going to follow you around and stand on a goddamn stepstool to nurse. Nursing a preschooler gives you beautiful bridges–from sleep time to wake time and vice versa, from hurting to feeling ok, from sickness to health. It is not the constant neediness of babies and the fraughtness of toddlers. It’s a ten-second hug in bed.

It’s not weird or provocative. It’s not pederasty. It’s not going to scar anyone. And there is a good chance that you (unless you are a close family member) are not going to see it. Because there are more interesting things to do at the park/museum/etc — even public transportation was a hell of a lot more fascinating to my 3 year old nurslings than my breasts. Buses and subways and taxis, oh my!

Time magazine is creating a distraction, because now everyone is discussing whether it is acceptable to parent in this way. That’s unacceptable. I don’t want Time or the American (or Israeli) public passing judgment on me as long as my kids are safe and thriving.

The distraction is what is hurting children and the parent-child bond. Why doesn’t the government support breastfeeding? Not with civil rights statutes but real, concrete help: mandated parental leave for months, not weeks, and for all moms (and full-time caregiving dads), not some lucky few, or some with the luxury (like me) to slam the door on a job/career and drop out to be “just a mom” (if only) for five years. Why are only some companies “family-friendly” and only some hospitals “baby-friendly” — why not all of them? Why can’t we admit that there are lots of different ways to raise kids, and why can’t we get along better?

Why?

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I am submitting this post to be part of PhD in Parenting’s Carnival of Toddlers.

On the morning of AM’s second birthday, he woke up next to me and asked to nurse. Taxman, Miss M, and I sang “Happy Birthday” and gave him a wrapped gift. “Book,” he said, as he tore off the paper.

“What do you think it’s about?” I asked him.

He inspected the cover slowly. “Dog!” he said excitedly.

“That’s right, a doggie,” I told him.

Except that’s not exactly how it happened. He had a speech delay and, at age two, he could not pronounce any consonants. But we had conversations—he even made funny comments—because he used sign language. Asking to nurse and talking about books and dogs was all in sign language.

We had started signing with Miss M, because we thought it was cool. She accumulated a vocabulary of over 150 words before her speech caught up with her hands. Fears that it would delay her spoken vocabulary were completely and utterly unfounded. But for a full year, from about 10 months to 22 months, it was an amazing window into her universe.

(We used the Signing Time series of videos. I used to think that using real ASL was important, but in retrospect it’s such as short time of their lives that “baby signs” or something invented serves just as well. On the other hand, ASL will save any embarrassment–made up signs have been known to indicate something vulgar or unintended.)

I loved signing with my kids because I felt like I was doing something totally right.

When I had so many other first-time-parenting doubts, signing was the knot at the end of my rope. I knew exactly what my child wanted! Even if I couldn’t, or didn’t, give it to her, I didn’t have to guess as much. I could offer her choices, as limited as they were: eat an apple or banana; take a bath now or read a book now; put on shoes first or coat first. What toddler doesn’t want a modicum of control over her life? What person doesn’t?

Of course there was a lot of disagreement. She was a toddler. But it’s easier to play the game when you know the rules, so to speak.

Besides giving her choices and giving voice to her opinions, signing offered us the chance to talk about what she wanted to talk about, what made her excited and what she saw. Flowers and birds at the botanical gardens; monkeys at the zoo. The moon in the sky—during the day!

AM took longer to sign back to us. For a while he did a lot of pointing with his index finger—I called it The Index Finger of Doom, because woe unto you if you guessed incorrectly about where it was aimed. Thankfully he picked up signing too. It was our lifeline. It may have contributed to his disqualification from Early Intervention, but I wasn’t sorry we had a way to talk to each other. (We found our own way to speech therapy. He had his opinions about that too.)

Over 200 signs later, he began to really use words. Now we have conversations about the difference between nocturnal and crepuscular* animals, and I kind of miss him looking out the window of our building lobby and telling me if he was seeing buses or cars.

I wish there were a magic bullet to help me overcome my children’s slights toward each other, their hot tempers and eye-rollingly self-aggrandizing statements. But I’ll keep them as they are. Having a toddler was hard! I just miss that parenting confidence that came with nursing and signing, when, at the end of the day, I was so sure that I was doing something right. Though it was unconventional among my neighborhood peers–more common, I discovered, among Ask Moxie moms–signing was something kick-ass, really good for my kids, and a true help.

*Ha! Not my fault! E.B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan

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Depends on where you are…Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Thursday-End-of-Work-Week! or…both!

I’ve missed those posts that get a lot of comments because I miss your words and your wit. So I’ve decided to solicit it. Not in a bad way.

I would love for people to share something that they’ve learned during their time on Earth. It can be funny or sad or wise, about relationships, parenting, baking, whatever.

[Ed. note: If anyone has a recipe for peanut butter cookies that are more like puffy, traditional cookies and less like big crumbly messes, you get extra bonus points.]

I’ll start.

I had a “flashbulb” moment about parenting recently, when I realized that dealing with older kids is just a more complex parsing of “needs” versus “wants.” In La Leche, we talked a lot about babies’ needs versus wants–when they are little, their needs and wants are the same: to be held, fed, dry, warm, secure. Easy. (“Easy.”)

As they grow, their needs and wants diverge. Needs have to be attended to pretty immediately for babies and toddlers, less so for older kids. Their wants sometimes get fulfilled, sometimes don’t, and often have to take a backseat to someone else’s needs.

Example: “Ema! I need a cup of water!”

Chances are, unless this child has been fasting on Yom Kippur, this is a want masquerading as a need. It’s a relatively important want, so it will be attended to…soonish. Because if I need to go to the bathroom, that’s happening first. Eventually, you will be able to delegate the want-fulfillment to someone else, even perhaps that child. Stepstools by the sink are great for this.

Once your child starts spending big chunks of time away from you, it gets increasingly difficult to determine where the need/want bifurcation happens. You have to be a good sleuth. Or, you know, make a complete fool out of yourself in front of your child’s teacher.

For example:

“Ema, I need a white shirt for the tekes (school assembly) on Sunday!”

True. This is an actual requirement.

“Ema, I need a white skirt for the tekes on Sunday!”

False.

“Ema, I want a white skirt for the tekes on Sunday!”

After talking to the teacher, the truth emerges. Sadly, my need to not die a thousand deaths thinking of her in a white skirt trumps her wanting one. Not enough Shout! in the world.

I’m not sure where I am going with this, just that it exists and is something I should keep in my back pocket as I am dealing with the usual crazies around here.

Bonus share for the ladies:

The expensive bras are worth it. Trust me on this. The $100 bra from France, potentially handcrafted by little elves, will fit and flatter you in ways that the $15 Target bra and the $32 Maidenform won’t.

Even if you can’t necessarily afford to stock your wardrobe with a full range of expensive lingerie, you deserve one professionally fitted, knockout bra. Because there will always be a first date, a night on the town, a job interview, a special occasion–something!–where you will want to feel and look your absolute best. It inspires confidence. Really.

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On Thursday night, I attended Twestival Jerusalem.

Twestival is a bunch of people who use Twitter, coming together for a night of offline socializing and raising money for a particular cause. One of the organizers of Twestival Jerusalem described it as growing out of a casual group of friends in London who raised a little money for a homeless shelter; but then one of the participants decided to go bigger–and use social media to draw in a bigger crowd and more money.

It worked. Then it went international.

In alternating years the causes for Twestival are either global (for instance, Charity:Water) or local. In local years, the charities selected, at least in Israel, are truly local: the Tel Aviv Twestival supported Bet Shanti and the Jerusalem Twestival supported Meneket RivkA, the breastpump lending and breastfeeding support organization founded to honor the legacy of RivkA Matitya–the blogger behind Coffee and Chemo.

It was a fun night out, it was a cause I am happy to support (you can too! tax deductible, even!), and it served as a lesson on how it was possible to have a real, positive impact, even from “something small.”

My even tinier brush up against this idea has happened over the past few months. A friend has been dealing with something that is unfortunately both sad and terrible and far too common. What I have been able to do for her is limited, but I have done it anyway. It largely involves a series of half-hour drives and drinking coffee or eating brunch, so I feel like I am somehow either a) cheating the universe on this alleged “helping” or b) not really helping, but fooling myself into thinking that I am helping, when really I am just drinking coffee and blathering on.

Small. Small…can be good. Right?

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God, remember teething? Remember the cranky days, the fussy nights? The general unhappiness, fist-in-mouth, and sad baby noises? Remember nobody sleeping due to the unhappiness? For nights, nay weeks, on end?

The kids handled teething in different ways. AM was a “I want nothing in my mouth; it hurts!” specimen. Unfortunately, this meant that his comfort mechanisms (nursing and thumb-sucking) were unavailable to him. So we fed him a lot of baby ibuprofen and hoped he’d drop off to sleep.

Miss M was the opposite. She was a “you, my mother, will comfort me via your breasts all night, every night, until this tooth has pierced through my itty bitty gums.” And I did. Because NIGHT NURSING = LYING DOWN.

Now, all my hard work is disappearing. I can see it. In big gaping holes where her baby teeth were.

This morning Miss M lost a tooth while eating her cinnamon toast. “Ema, Abba, my tooth fell out!”

For those of you playing along that’s four in the past four weeks (yes, I know! it seems bizarre! but the dentist didn’t seem nearly as freaked out as I was) and eight in the past year or so.

While I silently rejoiced–because I can handle blood gushing (and ha! apparently I didn’t blog AM’s run-in with a table at age 3 that required 3 staples in his head) with no problem, but teeth wiggling around squicks me out–I also had a moment of “is this all there is????”

Because SO MANY NIGHTS OF TEETHING. (I think I might still be recovering.) And now they are all falling out PLUS we have to fork over money.

More parenting secrets nobody tells you.

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As usual, breastfeeding is being critiqued. Not breastfeeding, per se, but so-called attachment parenting–of which breastfeeding is a major tenet.

Where I think Erica Jong goes wrong is in her assumption that moms are called on to be supermoms. Breastfeeding PLUS cloth diapering PLUS homemade baby food PLUS homeschooling PLUS working PLUS helicopter parenting (which is the natural outgrowth? how?) and we’re ruining everything. Admittedly, the (self-generated?) pressure is horrendous, but how many of us make it to age two or three or five without some sort of compromise of our “principles” of parenting, based on personality (parent’s or child’s), finances, location, outside influences, or something else? Guilt is everywhere, of course, but if you’ve bought into it you probably just need more confidence.

Let us return to the Church of Moxie, no? YOU are the best parent for YOUR child. Do what is good for YOU and YOUR CHILD. If “it” (advice, principle, piece of baby equipment, book, school, activity, etc) really doesn’t work for your and your child, don’t do it.

I am out of juice to respond to this. I feel like I’ve made my arguments, in response to Hanna Rosin, in response to Judith Warner.

And then comes Casey Woods and her post in the Miami Herald. I want to marry this post, that’s how good I think it is. Where is the outrage over maternity leave? Where is the outrage over formula marketing?

(That’s right. On the blogs, people, not in Congress.)

I beg you to read the whole essay, but if not, here’s what had me nodding so hard my neck hurts:

“But what I’ve found, in my 20 months in the motherhood trenches, is that I get pressured to parent in all kinds of ways. Unsolicited advice abounds. As annoying as it may be, I don’t find it oppressive. I make my own choices. I breast fed because I believed it was the best option for my child and my family, not because I feared social disapproval. To imply that my choice somehow subjugates me belittles my hard-earned status as a woman with the will and ability to make my own decisions.”

Jong and Warner and Rosin had their chance to choose. I am begging them to let other moms figure it out for themselves and their children. If they’d like to turn their attention to making the path to peaceful parenthood easier, not harder, that would be lovely. Thanks.

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