Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:17:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mothering no Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://www.mothering.com/articles Malnourished by a Western Diet: Simple Solutions from Dr. Sears http://www.mothering.com/articles/malnourished-western-diet/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/malnourished-western-diet/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:04:13 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52498 By Dr. William Sears Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this helpful article. Check out their magazine, The Attached Family, for more great stories. Oftentimes, parents bring their child to me for consultation on learning or behavioral problems at school. They typically open their concern with, “We and our child’s teacher believe he has Attention […]

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By Dr. William Sears

Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this helpful article. Check out their magazine, The Attached Family, for more great stories.

Oftentimes, parents bring their child to me for consultation on learning or behavioral problems at school. They typically open their concern with, “We and our child’s teacher believe he has Attention Deficit Disorder.” After taking a nutritional history, I often reply, “Your child doesn’t have ADD; he has NDD.”

Obviously, they look surprised. They don’t know what NDD is, but it doesn’t sound like something they want their child to have. I go on to explain that what I mean by NDD is a Nutrition Deficit Disorder.

In my experience, many children described as having ADD lose this tag once their NDD is treated. Here’s how: Since the brain is 60% fat, it stands to reason that growing brains need high-quality fats. Smart fats make the brain grow and perform better. Smart fats are the omega-3 fatty acids found in high amounts in seafood. Omega-3 fats are also found in some plants (for example, flaxseed oil, canola oil, nuts and seeds), but the omega-3 fats found in plants have to be converted from shorter-chain fatty acids to longer ones before they can be used in the brain. Seafood and supplements are the most direct source of long-chain omega-3s, including the most important omega-3, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Smart vs. Dumb Fats

Research shows that omega-3 fats make brains healthier, especially the brains of young kids and older adults. Researchers believe that the high levels of omega-3 fats in breastmilk help to explain the differences in IQ between children who received human milk in infancy and those who did not.

The body uses omega-3 fats to make cell membranes. Omega-3 fats are also needed to make myelin, the insulation around nerves, and to help neurotransmitters function at the optimal levels. Omega-3 fats are known as essential fatty acids from food. Other types of fats can be manufactured in the body, but the body cannot make essential fatty acids. That is why it is important for growing brains to get adequate amounts of these “smart” fats from food.

If there are not enough smart fats available to make brain cells and other key substances, the body uses lesser-quality fats and produces lesser-quality cells. The “dumb” fats—known as replacement fatty acids—such as the kind that come from the trans fats in hydrogenated oils, clog the receptors in the cell membrane and the brain cell does not function well.

Neurotransmitters, the biochemical messengers that carry information from one brain cell to another, fit into receptors on cell membranes like a key fits into a lock. The keys and locks must match. If the cell membrane is composed of the right fats, the locks and keys match. But if the receptors are clogged with the wrong fats, the neurotransmitter keys won’t fit and brain cell function suffers. Omega-3 fats keep the receptors open so the neurotransmitters fit and the brain can function optimally.

Eat Smart Fats: Learn and Behave Better

In the past few years, several studies showed that growing children diagnosed with ADD who were given omega-3 supplements, especially DHA, improved their attention and learning.

In order for kids to learn, they have to be able to concentrate. Studies show that omega-3 fats help the brain pay attention and make connections. Researchers at Purdue University found that boys with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) had lower levels of omega-3 fats, especially DHA, the main omega-3 fat found in fish. The boys with the most abnormal behavior had the lowest levels of DHA. School-age children with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had the fewest learning problems. In addition, students who were given DHA supplements prior to exams showed less hostility and aggression during this time of stress.

Feed Your Family with Smart Carbs

Around 50% of the energy from the carbohydrates children eat goes to fueling their growing brains. Muscles can store glucose, the body’s main fuel extracted from digested carbs, but the brain can’t store much glucose. It depends on a steady supply of glucose in the bloodstream. If the blood sugar dips too low, brain function can deteriorate within minutes.

The brain is very selective about the carbs it craves, and it prefers that you eat the right carbs with the right partners at the right time. If brain cells could comment on the best ways to give them carbs they need, here’s what they would request:

–Partner carbs with fiber and protein – The brain prefers carbs that are naturally packaged with protein and fiber. These two partners slow the digestive process and steady the rate at which glucose enters the blood. Without protein or fiber in a food, the carbs are digested quickly and rush into the bloodstream so fast that they cause a sugar high followed by a sugar low, as the body releases a large amount of insulin to handle the sugar. Unstable blood sugar levels lead to unstable brain chemistry, which makes it hard for kids to pay attention and control their behavior.

–Graze on good carbs – Kids and adults don’t think well when they’re hungry. Frequent mini-meals throughout the day are good for the brain.

–Eat protein for brain power – High-protein foods perk up the brain by increasing levels of two “alertness” neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine. A high-protein meal really is a “power breakfast” or a “power lunch.”

–Add more protein to each meal and snack.

–Avoid fiber-less carbs (for example, candy and soda) – Instead, choose the fiber-filled carbs in fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.

–Feed your child a brainy breakfast – Since proteins perk up the brain, send your kids off to school with a high-protein, healthy-carb and healthy-fat breakfast, such as whole-grain cereal and yogurt.

Brain Food Suggestions

·         Smart foods: blueberries, nuts, salmon, spinach

·         Dumb foods: excitotoxins (for example, monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, food colorings, preservatives), fiber-poor carbs, hydrogenated oils, sweetened beverages

You might also enjoy the other articles in our National Nutrition Month series:

Kids in the Kitchen: An Interview with Sally Sampson, Founder of ChopChopKids

Feeding the Whole Family: An Interview with Cynthia Lair of Cookus Interruptus

Strengthening Secure Attachment Through Food by Kelly Bartlett

Image: Rob_Rob2001

 

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The C.A.R.E.-Code Alliance: Why Families Deserve Companies that Protect Healthy Infant Feeding http://www.mothering.com/articles/families-deserve-c-a-r-e-code-alliance/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/families-deserve-c-a-r-e-code-alliance/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 20:54:01 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52001 By Peggy O’Mara Best for Babes Advisory Board On May 21, 1981 the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in an effort to protect breastfeeding from being out-marketed by the formula industry to the detriment of children’s health worldwide. Preventing the discouragement of breastfeeding is a part […]

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By Peggy O’Mara
Best for Babes Advisory Board

On May 21, 1981 the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the International Code of the Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in an effort to protect breastfeeding from being out-marketed by the formula industry to the detriment of children’s health worldwide. Preventing the discouragement of breastfeeding is a part of the overall nutrition and maternal and child health programs of both WHO and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and is a key element of primary health care.

Everyday, 4,000 infants worldwide die from lack of breastfeeding. Just 39% of babies worldwide are exclusively breastfed for the first six months even though an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months of life than a non-breastfed child.

According to a paper published in the Lancet in 2013, of all preventative interventions, breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival. In fact, it has the potential to prevent 13% of all deaths in children under five in the developing world.

Non-breastfed children in developed countries are also at higher risk of dying. According to UNICEF, a recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25% increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. Black babies born in the U.S. are at an even greater risk – far less likely to be breastfed and 2.5 times more likely to die than white babies.

Making breastfeeding possible for as many mothers as possible is a public health priority and a societal responsibility.

WHAT THE CODE PROHIBITS

The Code is intended to curtail the aggressive and insidious marketing of breast milk substitutes, which has been proven to undermine breastfeeding initiation and duration. It prohibits the advertising or promotion–not the sale –of the following products:

  • breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula
  • milk products, foods or beverages—including bottle-fed complementary foods—used as a partial or total replacement for breastmilk.
  • formula bottles and nipples

The Code is very specific in regards to the responsibility of health care facilities and health workers.

  • No facility of a health care system should be used for the purpose of promoting infant formula or other products within the scope of this Code.
  • Samples of infant formula or other products within the scope of this Code, or of equipment or utensils for their preparation or use, should not be provided to health workers except when necessary for the purpose of professional evaluation or research at the institutional level. Health workers should not give samples of infant formula to pregnant women, mothers of infants and young children, or members of their families.

Since 1981, 84 countries have enacted legislation implementing all or many of the provisions of the Code and 14 others have laws in progress. Just six countries have taken no action at all to implement this important health directive:

  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Iceland
  • Kazakhstan
  • Somalia
  • United States

FORMULA OUTSPENDS BREASTFEEDING

Because the U.S. has done nothing to formally implement the Code, formula marketing in the U.S. remains unchecked. The U.S. accounts for half of the $8 billion a year global formula market.

The formula industry spent $50 million dollars on advertising in one year to undermine the U.S. Health and Human Services Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign (June 2004 to April 2006). In 2006, the formula industry spent $100 million on advertising in the Philippines (nearly half of the Philippine Health Department’s entire annual budget of $239 million) to overturn new health department regulations that would have prevented formula companies from targeting children under two with advertising. Contrast this to the annual budget—$3.5 million—of La Leche League, the premier international breastfeeding advocacy organization.

Formula was originally prescribed by physicians for babies who were unable to breastfeed due to extreme circumstances such as maternal death or illness and until the 1990s was promoted only to doctors and not advertised in consumer publications.

Without government regulation, it has fallen to the private sector to help protect pregnant women and new mothers from formula advertising. The Best for Babes® Foundation(BfB) is a leader in helping expecting and new moms to avoid and overcome what they call “the booby traps®,” and one of these traps is the rampant marketing of formula. The organization has launched a powerful new tool to help make the world around expecting and new mothers safe, supportive and positive when it comes to infant feeding.

newB4BCareCODE_nobaseTHE CARE-CODE ALLIANCE

The C.A.R.E.-Code Alliance is the first alliance to recognize businesses of all types that protect healthy infant feeding by upholding the Code and by pledging to follow a short but critical set of criteria that support the BFB Credo.

All expecting and new moms deserve to know what businesses have their backs during the most vulnerable period of motherhood, just as they deserve to know which car seat is safest, which health care providers to trust, and which blogs or websites to turn to for accurate information.

Daily they are bombarded with information about infant feeding from every sphere of influence they encounter; not all of it is reliable, and much of it undermines infant feeding decisions, breastfeeding initiation and especially continuation rates, to the detriment of our collective health.   

Following in the footsteps of other trusted seals, the C.A.R.E.-Code Alliance seal steers consumers toward responsible businesses. The Alliance standards protect moms from the Booby Traps® of misinformation, negativity, unethical marketing, harassment, pressure, judgment, poor care, and lack of support. By putting positive pressure on businesses to do more to protect healthy infant feeding, the Alliance effectively helps to grow a more ethical industry, it raises awareness about the Code and the importance of accurate and positive information and support, and it creates a powerful network of businesses and nonprofits that can advocate on behalf of moms and babies.  

Specifically, C.A.R.E.-Code Allies pledge to protect healthy infant feeding by

  • Cheering on moms,
  • Accepting them without judgment, pressure and guilt,
  • Referring them to independently certified and qualified feeding specialists,
  • Providing evidence-based information, and
  • Upholding the WHO Code.

There has never been a better time for companies to come together to put positive pressure on the Booby Traps® that undermine moms’ feeding decisions. Powerhouse blogger, Annie Urban, of PhDinParenting calls the Best for Babes’ C.A.R.E.-Code Alliance the solution to making the marketplace safe for expectant and new moms. Plus, from the revenue generated by the Alliance, Best for Babes hopes to create an ethical funding source for health organizations in need of money.

The C.A.R.E.-Code Alliance accepts applications from companies, media outlets, employers, bloggers, mom outreach groups, nonprofits, and soon, health providers.  

Here is a list of the 2014 CARE Code Alliance Members. Please give them your support.

A Mother’s Boutique

Ameda

AppleCheeks

AquaBelly Fitness

Balboa Baby

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

EarthMamaAngelBaby

Erigo Savannah

Fairhaven Health

Feathermama

Joie Milan Group

Juno Blu

Leading Lady

Limerick

Lucina

Mamava

Melinda G

Milkin Cookies

The Milky Way Movie

Moby

Motherlove

Mother’s Lounge

My Brest Friend

Nancy Mohrbacher Solutions

Nursing Bra Express

Onya Baby

Palo Alto Software

PAXBaby

Pretty by JL

The Shower Hug

Smile Sunshine Designs

Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear

Warm Milk

Ybreast

Zutano

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In the Bay Area? Win a Family Photo Shoot and Album! http://www.mothering.com/articles/win-family-photo-shoot/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/win-family-photo-shoot/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:36:37 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52242 Special Note: In order to enter this giveaway you must live in the Bay Area or be willing to drive to San Francisco with your family for the photo shoot. Looking for a truly unique way to create family memories this fall? Thinking about what adorable shot you might place on your holiday cards this year? You’re going […]

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Special Note: In order to enter this giveaway you must live in the Bay Area or be willing to drive to San Francisco with your family for the photo shoot.

Looking for a truly unique way to create family memories this fall? Thinking about what adorable shot you might place on your holiday cards this year? You’re going to love this giveaway!

Enter below and one lucky winner will score a free 30 minute family photo session with Monica Semergiu, a Bay Area portrait photographer, and a printed book of memories with the best images from your special shoot, courtesy of Social Print Studio!

Social Print Studio is a small independent company that helps you make prints, photo books, posters and magnets using pictures from Instagram, your computer or your mobile phone.

For a chance to win, “like” Monica Semergiu Photography and Social Print Studio on Facebook and leave a comment on this post letting us know that you did. For a second chance to win, share this post with friends and leave a second comment.

Additional Info: The photo shoot will be taken on location in a public space near your house, like a park or garden. This is a great opportunity to have a set of professional images that you can use for the holidays. The images will be edited and uploaded on a private folder, where you can either download them or choose to purchase prints. Downloading the files is free of charge – and it allows you to either print them yourself at home or print them at a lab of your choice. The photographer will be in charge of creating your free photo book with Social Print Studio, where you can order other of their products as well, or order multiple books, should you want to.

Rules: One winner will be chosen randomly from all qualifying entries. Two entries per person, one for “liking” Monica Semergiu Photography and Social Print Studio on Facebook and leaving a comment on this page, and one for sharing this giveaway and leaving a second comment on this page. Limited to US residents who live in, or are willing to travel to, the San Francisco Bay Area for the live photo shoot. A replacement will not be provided to a winner who cannot attend the photo shoot. The giveaway ends on Monday, Oct 27 at 4pm PT.

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A Letter to My Waiter … From Me and My Baby http://www.mothering.com/articles/letter-waiter-baby/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/letter-waiter-baby/#comments Sat, 18 Oct 2014 23:17:33 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52146 By Asha Jameson for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers To My Waiter, Thanks for working tonight and I’m sorry you’re waiting on people instead of enjoying a meal out yourself! Oh, and sorry to have caused that little grimace on your face when you saw me and my baby at your table. I’m a […]

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By Asha Jameson for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

To My Waiter,

Thanks for working tonight and I’m sorry you’re waiting on people instead of enjoying a meal out yourself! Oh, and sorry to have caused that little grimace on your face when you saw me and my baby at your table.

I’m a complete and utter foodie AND a new mother. I’m also an ex-waitress of 15 years. Let me assure you, I’ve read everything and will DO everything to make sure this experience is pleasant for you, me and the people around us.

I’ve made sure she’s not tired. I’ve made sure she’s not hungry. I’ve brought a plethora of toys, books and other distractions with me. If she melts down, I will leave, and most importantly, I have chosen this restaurant carefully! And while I don’t agree that babies should be banned from fancy restaurants, like the chef for Alinea in Chicago expressed on Twitter, I definitely know which restaurants will work for us, and which won’t.

Hope you don’t think I’m rude, but here are some suggestions that might make this a little easier on everyone, including you…

1)   Please bring me a menu right away, not 15 minutes after I’ve sat down. I only have approximately 17 minutes total, so that can make the difference between a smooth and enjoyable meal, and having to spend your time packing up untouched food to go!

Read More...

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Our Family’s Favorite Halloween Books http://www.mothering.com/articles/favorite-halloween-books/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/favorite-halloween-books/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 20:49:38 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=51945 We are big fans of Halloween over in our house.  You can usually find us counting down the last days of September as we anxiously await the day we can put up our Halloween decorations.  We paint our big picture window with a huge pumpkin; we put the scarecrow out on the porch, and we […]

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We are big fans of Halloween over in our house.  You can usually find us counting down the last days of September as we anxiously await the day we can put up our Halloween decorations.  We paint our big picture window with a huge pumpkin; we put the scarecrow out on the porch, and we hang up bunting and pumpkins and anything else that can help us get into the season.

When my eldest was a toddler, I went to a consignment sale and found a huge pile of Halloween books for a few dollars.  Since we are book fanatics as well, I was so excited by this find that combined one of my favorite holidays with my favorite pastime.  Over the years we have added to this list, and I’ve come up with my absolute definitive list of favorite Halloween books.

These aren’t special books.  They aren’t hard to find.  They don’t espouse any particular values or teach any lessons.  All of them can be found easily in pretty much any large bookstore or library, and all of them make me giddy as soon as I pull them out on October 1st.

little_old_lady

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything

I love reading books with sound effects with little kids.  I love making the sounds and acting out the motions.  And my kids seem to kind of like it too.  This book is full of all of that as well as a spunky old lady who faces a spooky path home.

 

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Room on the Broom

Before we bought this book, I had never heard of it.  This is another fun out loud read, and I can tell you that you would be hard pressed to find a librarian who can do a more dramatic “whoosh they were gone” than I can.

 

berenstain_bears

The Berenstain Bears Spooky Old Tree

One of the fun things about being a mom to really young kids is that often they take on a lot of your likes.  As much as I try to expose my children to new experiences, they tend to take after their mama.  This is not the case, however, with the Berenstain Bears.  I loved those books as a kid, and my children absolutely positively cannot stand them.  I bought this book when I was alone at the bookstore, and I snuck it home, hoping they would give it a chance because I had so many fond memories of this one as a child.  My older two (ages three and six) want nothing to do with it, but my one year old absolutely loves it.  And that makes me absolutely happy.

 

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Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody

I think I’m odd in my distaste for the book that this one parodies (Goodnight Moon,) but this one makes me smile.  It has the same predictable rhyme and the same concept, but the new pictures make it just novel enough that I love it, and just like the original, my little ones love pointing out the objects.

We have probably a dozen more Halloween books, but these are some of the favorites in our house.  What about you?  I would love some recommendations to add to our library.

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The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories http://www.mothering.com/articles/importance-sharing-birth-stories/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/importance-sharing-birth-stories/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 22:45:27 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52458 By Tamara Parnay Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this helpful article. Check out their magazine, The Attached Family, for more great stories. Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we […]

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By Tamara Parnay

Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this helpful article. Check out their magazine, The Attached Family, for more great stories.

Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we may struggle in our attempts to tap into our collective wealth of knowledge and experience. While the purpose of this article is not to sway readers one way or another about where and how to give birth, it does intend to point out the availability of a wide range of firsthand birth stories, which—perhaps more effectively than any other form of childbirth education—encourage and enable expectant parents to inform and prepare themselves.

Cultivating an empathetic environment for the sharing of our birth stories is a first step towards returning to women the wisdom and control of giving birth. These stories are powerful and empowering. Childbirth is one of life’s most marvelous, miraculous experiences. Giving birth is not only about having babies; it’s also about motherhood. In the same light, sharing birth stories is not only about providing or collecting information; it’s also about community.

As for anything so personal, we need to start by providing a non-threatening environment conducive to open, heart-to-heart participation.

The topic of birthing is highly charged. The contention seems to arise mainly between those who have had natural births or homebirths and those who, for whatever reason, haven’t. One side may come across as patronizing, smug and self-serving. The other side may seem insecure, defensive, envious and even ill-informed.

The Best Birthing Option

Expectant parents who have researched and considered all the birthing options available to them, while taking into account their own values and beliefs, are making an informed, proactive decision. They may plan on any combination of options, such as an assisted or unassisted homebirth, a birth center birth, a natural hospital birth, a hospital birth with minimal pain relief, a hospital birth with maximum pain relief, and even a planned Cesarean section. Of course, there may be unforeseen events that could change Plan A to Plan B, and these changes may be completely out of anyone’s control. So, for instance, those planning on a natural homebirth would need to consider the possibility, remote as it may be, of ending up in a hospital having an emergency Cesarean section.

Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy through postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in having personalized birth plans and helping them to safely realize these plans. In other words, maternity care providers must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

With informed planning, financial considerations need to be taken into account: Some families may not be able to afford private care. Risk factors must also be considered: It may not be advisable to plan a homebirth for a high-risk pregnancy. Some women might desire pain relief, even considering it to be a crucial part of their birth plan. They may not want to experience the pain of birthing. Pain sensitivity may vary greatly from one person to the next, which would mean that some women may not be able to cope with pain as well as others. If pain relief wasn’t available to some women during labor, their birth experience could be overshadowed, even complicated, by their overwhelming inability to cope with the pain. We can never know what another’s experience is truly like. Parents-to-be need to be realistic about their circumstances and thus deserve to be free to make informed and unfettered decisions about their birth plan. Once they have become informed, the best combination of options for any family is that which they feel best suits them at the time.

Natural vs. Medicated Birth, Hospital vs. Home

Some mothers who have experienced a natural birth may find it difficult to understand why others have not, cannot, or do not desire to do so. Some natural birthers have described to me how they were successful at getting themselves into the right zone, pointing out that they had made the right choices; they emphasized that they hadn’t given up when the going got tough; and they described how they felt in complete control during their birth experience.

For some who chose or needed medical intervention, doubts and “what ifs” may creep into their thoughts when they hear natural birthers’ stories, even if they have processed their birth experience and have come to terms with any disappointment they may have felt, assuming they were disappointed at all. I have heard comments such as, “I must not have been able to get myself into the right frame of mind,” “I think I made some bad choices,” and “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” Their insecurities and defensiveness may actually end up reinforcing and perpetuating the attitude that all women can control every aspect of their birthing experience and its outcome if they really want to.

For some who choose a homebirth, they may feel misunderstood, even humiliated, by hospital birth advocates who consider home birthers to be reckless with their baby’s and/or their own well-being. Comments such as, “It’s risky business to birth at home” or “Something could go wrong, and then your baby’s and even your own life could be in jeopardy,” may undermine the confidence of those who are considering a homebirth.

Competition at the Root of Contention?

What might cause these misunderstandings and ill feelings to develop? Perhaps the answer lies in our culturally driven need to compete.

Western society emphasizes individual competition. Competition is not only prevalent in mainstream settings, it also exists in alternative communities and social circles. Society instills in us the need to compare the many things in our lives in order to determine what’s better or what’s best. Then we generalize that “What’s best for me must be best for you, too.” In setting up a better than/worse than dichotomy, competition stifles our ability to empathize with each other.

According to the article “Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict” by Brad Spangler on BeyondIntractability.org: “Obstructiveness and lack of helpfulness lead to mutual negative attitudes and suspicion of one another’s intentions. One’s perceptions of the other tend to focus on the person’s negative qualities and ignore the positives.”

Unspoken irrational comparisons might take place, such as: “I had the shortest and least complicated natural birth,” “Oh! My natural birth took longer than hers” and “Oh no! How can I share my birth story? I didn’t even have a natural birth!” For many reasons, everyone loses in competitive situations like this. One unfortunate consequence is that non-natural birthers may feel uneasy about sharing their birth stories. We may all lose out on their valuable input, because we don’t end up having the chance to view the bigger picture.

A competitive atmosphere that develops surrounding the sharing of birth experiences is a clear sign that on an individual level, everyone needs to reflect more on their own birthing experience. If individuals find themselves proving others wrong in order to make themselves feel right, then they need to have a look at possible reasons why. They need to give themselves—and then each other—credit where credit is due, as well as acknowledge their good fortune.

According to Spangler, cooperative conversation is characterized by “‘effective communication,’ where ideas are verbalized and group members pay attention to one another and accept their ideas and are influenced by them. These groups have less problems communicating with and understanding others. … Friendliness, helpfulness and less obstructiveness is expressed in conversations.”

Sharing with Empathy

A practical idea for encouraging a less competitive environment is to discover what we do have in common. So, it would make sense to emphasize the ways we have promoted bonding with our newborns from the time they entered into our lives. It is helpful to “fast forward” to the present time and talk about what we are doing now—and tomorrow—to remain securely attached to our children.

When we can get beyond our feelings of competitiveness, we are able to foster a healthy dialogue because we are more receptive to what others have to say. In a cooperative setting, “members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group … as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members,” writes Spangler. Through empathic listening, we are less likely to make assumptions about others’ views, motives and feelings and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are able to:

  1. Reflect on others’ birthing experiences
  2. Try on” their situation—their “truth”—by imagining ourselves in their place
  3. Give validation and empathy, but not in the form of an unsolicited therapy session
  4. Increase our own knowledge of and sensitivity to birthing issues
  5. Help each other move on to our current parenting situations by sharing ideas for remaining as securely attached as possible to our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

In a fully accepting and flexible atmosphere, people are safe to make themselves vulnerable by sharing their feelings, needs, disappointments, triumphs and dreams. Natural birthers are able to view non-natural birthers’ experiences and concerns with sincere, unbiased interest and empathy, and they will softly share their own birthing experience. Mothers who did not experience the birth they had hoped for will feel understood because their own birthing stories are validated, and they will be able to share in the joy of other parents who had the birth experience they had hoped for. Feelings of satisfaction we derive from feeling superior are fleeting; the good feelings we receive by helping other people feel good are long lasting.

Even the most informed people can run into unplanned, and sometimes serious, complications during the birth process. By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated. Through our positive and non-judgmental contributions to this contentious topic, we create a collective harmony that enables everyone to leave the discussion feeling good. We bring these good feelings home to our families. Thus, the empathy we have given to each other touches the greatest gift we all receive in our birthing experience: our own children.

To read our growing collection of birth stories–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.

Image: Eric Lewis

 

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The Rescue Dog Who Rescued Us http://www.mothering.com/articles/rescue-dog-rescued-us/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/rescue-dog-rescued-us/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:55:27 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=52202 By Karen Demspey for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers “Poor Toby,” John said one night as we lay in bed. We were listening to one of the kids cry into the dog’s curly white coat after an exceptionally bad day. “He didn’t know he was going to be a therapy dog.” I smiled despite […]

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By Karen Demspey for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

“Poor Toby,” John said one night as we lay in bed. We were listening to one of the kids cry into the dog’s curly white coat after an exceptionally bad day. “He didn’t know he was going to be a therapy dog.”

I smiled despite my stomachache over the unhappy child. It was true. We didn’t know he was going to be a therapy dog. Even in that moment, the dog was helping to calm me. I couldn’t find the words to make the bad day disappear, but I knew that Toby—enthusiastically licking the salty tears away—would help it fade into the background.

Toby came to us from a dog rescue in rural Tennessee. Along with dozens of other formerly abandoned dogs, he traveled to New England on an enormous tractor-trailer we met up with at a highway rest stop. A burly, tattooed man called out my name and beamed at me as he placed a shivering bundle of white in my arms. We knew we were receiving a gift that day, but we couldn’t yet appreciate its impact.

Brennan was nine at the time and his shaky quests for independence, his growing wish to be out from under our thumbs, found a focus in caring for Toby, in the early mornings when he snapped on the dog’s leash and negotiated how far he was allowed to walk him. Liddy suffers from anxiety, but she found new footing in helping to earn Toby’s trust—carefully cataloging his likes and dislikes, delighting in newly found ways to draw him out.

Brennan captured our situation perfectly one night at the dinner table. “I’m so glad we have Toby now,” he said. “It’s like he made every part of our lives better.”

Read More...

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Attachment Parenting Month 2014: Celebrating “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children” http://www.mothering.com/articles/attachment-parenting-month-2014-celebrating-cherishing-parents-flourishing-children/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/attachment-parenting-month-2014-celebrating-cherishing-parents-flourishing-children/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 22:18:33 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=51785 By Rita Brhel, Attachment Parenting International Leader and Managing Editor, Attached Family magazine “That’s what Attachment Parenting International is trying to do – to change culture from one that ignores the critical importance of attachment to one that embraces the normality of healthy family relationships, securely attached children and connected communities.” ~From the 2014 API Conference, Sept. 26-28 […]

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By Rita Brhel, Attachment Parenting International Leader and Managing Editor, Attached Family magazine

“That’s what Attachment Parenting International is trying to do – to change culture from one that ignores the critical importance of attachment to one that embraces the normality of healthy family relationships, securely attached children and connected communities.” ~From the 2014 API Conference, Sept. 26-28 at Notre Dame University

We, as parents, often ask ourselves whether we feel our children are doing okay – if they are flourishing? Especially those of us involved in Attachment Parenting (AP), we closely monitor this in our children and make adjustments accordingly so that our children can flourish.

But we are less likely to ask ourselves if we are doing okay.

It may be that we assume we are flourishing if our children are. Parenting is so personal, and by our very biology, much of our own self-worth can be tied into how well we feel our children are doing.

It may be that we feel selfish or guilty if we feel that we are not flourishing alongside our children – if we are feeling burnt out, if we feel that our life balance is off.

We may fear that if we take a bit of “me” time that our children will suffer, since they won’t be getting all of our attention.

Because many of us grew up in non-AP families, we are still getting a feel for what a good balance is. Some of us may wish to give our children more attention than we had growing up, and so we may be timid to give ourselves more “me” time because it feels like we may be taking too much.

And it can take a while for parents to feel confident in their parenting approach, so that they are able to feel better about taking “me” time.

Or perhaps your children are at ages or stages that makes it difficult to take “me” time.

There may be another reason why you’re reluctant to make changes so that you feel that you’re flourishing, but balance is a critical part of Attachment Parenting. If you’re dealing with burn-out or trying to figure out how to gain more life balance, reading Attachment Parenting International’s Eighth Principle of Parenting: Strive for Personal and Family Balance can give you some ideas to get started on adding more “me” time to your life, and start you back on the path of flourishing.

So, how do you know if you and your children are flourishing? Check out the list on AP Month.

API-Logo-20th-theme (2)Attachment Parenting International’s 2014 conference at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, USA, was a wonderful way to celebrate our 20th Anniversary and kick off the 2014 AP Month centered on the same theme: “Cherishing Parents, Flourishing Children.”

Parents and professionals are invited to follow along each day of October with a daily post of inspiration at apmonth.attachmentparenting.org. From there, parents can also participate in the AP Month blogging and photo events, read the research supporting this year’s theme, participate in the AP Auction starting Oct. 18 and watch for special activities on APtly Said and the AP Facebook page.

From Oct. 1-31, Attachment Parenting International and featured sponsors – Peter Haiman, Kindred, Ergobaby, Tummy Calm/Colic Calm and Lamaze International – challenge parents to re-examine their daily activities, routines, beliefs, habits and traditions and learn new ways to engage with their children to grow with each other — remaining close while promoting opportunities for healthy exploration, individuation and development.

So far, this month, AP Month has been helping parents examine the real meaning behind the word “cherish” and “well-being,” how parenting affects brain development, reasons to have happy children and the effects of parental stress or positivity. Parents have also been challenged to better balance their lives and to rethink parenting as a public health issue. There’s so much more to learn this month, as Attachment Parenting International continues to share insights from researchers and other AP experts at the 2014 conference.

Happy Attachment Parenting Month, everyone!

Image: Fairuz Othman

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Managing Your Anger: How to Cool Off Before You Melt Down http://www.mothering.com/articles/managing-anger-cool-want-melt/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/managing-anger-cool-want-melt/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 20:29:37 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=51697 It’s one thing to understand how remaining calm, supportive and objective can be a great service to our children and another thing to do it when we're exhausted, frazzled, and sleep-deprived. It's also another matter when the emotional wounds from our own childhoods come roaring forth like a fire-breathing dragon. Until one has children, it's often easy to escape the darker parts of our personality.

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By Tricia Jalbert

Thank you to Attachment Parenting International for sharing this article. Find even more helpful content and resources on their website.

It’s one thing to understand how remaining calm, supportive and objective can be a great service to our children and another thing to do it when we’re exhausted, frazzled, and sleep-deprived.

It’s also another matter when the emotional wounds from our own childhoods come roaring forth like a fire-breathing dragon. Until one has children, it’s often easy to escape the darker parts of our personality. Yet, once we become a parent, we are often so tired or pushed or overwhelmed that those darker sides we’d rather not acknowledge make all-too-frequent appearances. Fortunately, these events can mark some important growing points and can provide opportunities to help ourselves and our children work through difficult feelings.

So What’s a Parent To Do?

Children learn from watching how you deal with your own feelings, just as they learn by watching how you deal with theirs. While you wouldn’t want to saddle your child with inappropriate exposure to your adult issues and emotions, it is not unhealthy for them to simply see you angry. It’s what you do when you are angry, and how you manage your intensity, that are important. Showing healthy responses to strong emotions teaches children that these emotions can be expressed and managed safely.

Ways to Prevent Meltdowns

  • Change the frame - Words or phrases can trigger our own over-the-top issues. “Why is this always so hard?” or “I can’t do this anymore!” Statements or rhetorical questions like these may release a flood of outrage and frustration that really has nothing to do with our children, but with our own childhood legacy. Choosing another way to see the situation or choosing not to say the phrase makes it more likely that you will stay conscious and connected.
  • Set standards - It’s difficult to think clearly when you are upset or frustrated with children. A strategy would give some predetermined guideposts that are “bottom lines” for our behavior. Perhaps you decide that there will be no hitting or swearing and that if things get too hot you will call a compulsory parent time-out.
  • Monitor your own feelings - Anger is a second feeling. Usually something occurs first — fear, sadness, fatigue. Learn to catch yourself and monitor how you’re feeling. Tuning in to your own cues of frustration may prevent a parental meltdown. Learn effective strategies for diffusing the anger. Learn to pause. Step away, if you have to. It takes practice, but it has been shown that just a few seconds can diffuse the anger significantly.
  • What are you really angry about? You cannot be supportive and connected when you are feeling enraged. Tune in to what you are really angry about. Harville Hendrix in Giving the Love That Heals says that some of our strong reactions that are “negative, intense, and repetitive are an almost certain clue that a parent has found a point of potential growth for himself. You know you are face-to-face with the unfinished business of your own childhood when you respond with strong negative feelings to your child’s behavior.”For instance, if you were not supported as a toddler in asserting your independence, your own toddler’s age-appropriate defiance will be troublesome for you. If anger wasn’t allowed in your family, you will have difficulty helping your child through this stage. Get some support. Get an outlet. Use this as an opportunity to heal some old wounds.

Expressing Healthy Anger

  • Give your behavior a name: “I feel angry right now.”
  • Don’t give in to phrases that may escalate the anger. Phrases like, “You always do this” or “I’m so tired of this” can cause anger to really flare.
  • Work to avoid scaring children. You can honestly and vigorously express your feelings without being scary.
  • Work to express anger without blame or labeling. “I feel angry when you throw your toys” instead of “You make me so angry.” The child doesn’t make us angry. We make a choice, albeit unconscious, to become angry.
  • Don’t act physically when angry. Spanking is not the only form of physical anger that parents sometimes use with their children. When angry, do not go to pick up or move your child. Physicalizing when angry only seems to unleash even more, perhaps buried, anger.
  • Take a break. Step away for a moment and take a breath.
  • Stay in the present. Learn to distinguish your own backlog of anger from that which is appropriate to the immediate situation.
  • What’s underneath the anger? Pay attention to the emotions that accompany your anger. Overwhelmed? Fatigued? Burnt out? Work to identify the underlying causes and address them. If your anger is not really about the children, make sure they know it’s not their fault, that you’re just feeling angry, crabby, tired, etc.

What to Do If You ‘Lose It’

Although no one feels good about losing control in front of or at our children, we can work to repair the situation by admitting that we have behaved inappropriately. Parents can and should apologize to their children. They should also explain to their children what has happened when children witness the parent being inappropriately angry with someone else:

  • Acknowledge your mistake. Tell the child how you were feeling at the time of the incident and why.
  • Tell the child how you are feeling now (e.g. sorry, embarrassed, etc.) and why.
  • De-brief. Discuss what you could have done to calm yourself.
  • Problem-solve. Brainstorm with your child how you both can avoid future incidents.

Good parents do get angry. It’s what you do with your inevitable and healthy anger that is important. It would be quite a different world if we all knew how to be angry with one another in a productive and safe way.

For More Information

When Anger Hurts Your Kids by Matthew McKay
Giving the Love That Heals by Harville Hendrix & Helen Hunt
Becoming the Parent You Want to Be by Laura Davis & Janis Keyser

Image: Ishai Parasol

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No, Please Don’t Visit My Newborn http://www.mothering.com/articles/please-dont-visit-newborn/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/please-dont-visit-newborn/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:17:30 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=51505 My husband’s grandmother left a message saying she was coming over. Right. Now. I’d been putting her visit off. I wanted the first week with our newborn to be a closed circle made up only of new mother, new father, and new baby. Benjamin was a wonder to us with eyes that hinted (I swear) […]

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My husband’s grandmother left a message saying she was coming over. Right. Now.

I’d been putting her visit off. I wanted the first week with our newborn to be a closed circle made up only of new mother, new father, and new baby. Benjamin was a wonder to us with eyes that hinted (I swear) of ancient wisdom. This time was our initiation into family life. It felt sacred to me in the way that life-changing experiences can. I didn’t want it muddied with polite conversation or awful clichés like “you look great.”

I was also exhausted and overwhelmed, as many first-time postpartum moms can be. We wait three-quarters of a year to see the baby we’ve been gestating. Plus we’re dealing with sore nipples, interrupted sleep, and estrogen levels that drop 100 to 1,000-fold in the first week after giving birth.  I knew plenty of other new mothers who thrived on connecting soon after birth. Not me. I wasn’t feeling remotely sociable.

When his grandmother arrived my resolve melted a little. As she leaned over to kiss our baby’s cheek the gentle wrinkles on her face twanged my heartstrings. She was looking down at her descendent, a boy who would grow up into a world beyond her time. My tenderness, however, instantly evaporated when she snatched him out of my arms with a thief’s deftness. Her perfume-doused wrists cradled him closely. He started to fuss almost immediately but she refused to hand him back.

“I know babies,” she said, surely trying to reassure me. I was not reassured.

His eyes crinkled in pre-cry mode. She hoisted him to her shoulder, his precious face against her sweater which had, I kid you not, fake rhinestone decorations pressed against his skin. Immediately I reached out for him but she turned and, bouncing him up and down, walked to the other side of the room. The baby started to cry for real.

I hustled up to her with the ferocity of a mother grizzly bear. The hair on my arms stood up and my scalp prickled. My mouth swung open and growl in my throat threatened to roll out. I’d never experienced such a primal reaction, a surge of body energy that transcended emotion. I managed to sputter a few words instead of actual growling.

“I need that baby back RIGHT NOW,” I said, “or I can’t be responsible for what I’ll say.”

She, who had bestowed the fond nickname of “sweet little girl” on me when I first dated her grandson, looked shocked. She had no idea that, in this moment of postpartum rage, I was close to sinking my teeth in her arm.

I grabbed my crying son, hustled off to the bedroom, and closed the door. Adrenaline still coursed through me. Nursing him calmed me, but not entirely. I stayed there until she was gone. When my husband carefully turned the knob and slid the door open just a bit I realized even he was a little afraid of me.

I’m sure I could have handled the situation better. Honestly, she could have too. I know the incident taught my husband that he needed to do everything possible to preserve our family boundaries in a newborn’s early weeks—skills that were essential as we had three more children, some with serious medical problems. It also taught me that nothing is more powerful than a new mother’s impulse to be with her baby.

I guess there is a moral to my story. Don’t visit a newborn if the mama urges you, even politely, to stay away. She means it.

 What would you like visitors to know during the first week of your baby’s life? 

[Addendum.  In response to so many vehement comments I'd like to add that I am dedicated to our extended family on both sides. My mother-in-law (her daughter) lived with us for 10 years, my kids always made handmade gifts for relatives, and I continue to host most holidays. Other than a baby's first week, I'm pretty welcoming...]

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