Newborn Breastfeeding and the 10th Day Growth Spurt

newborn breastfeeding and the 10th day growth spurt

(Photo used with permission from Birth Boot Camp.)

Breastfeeding success has always been an important goal for Birth Boot Camp and breastfeeding education is included in our online and in-person classes through a long and detailed video presentation by Mellanie Sheppard, IBCLC. One thing that often throws people off in their breastfeeding journey is the very early days and the confusion and lack of personal confidence that unexpected growth spurts can cause for the nursing mother. We love this guest today from Alex Rounds, an experienced breastfeeding mother and lactation counselor. Our hope is that you will read this and share it with expecting mothers so that they can thrive during the first months of breastfeeding. And, if you are really passionate about breastfeeding, taking her advice and giving mom a gift during this “10th day growth spurt” just might change a life and help preserve a nursing relationship. 

Enjoy!

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Experienced parents recognize some baby shower gifts don’t end up getting much use. We can’t predict what we’re really going to need until we meet our babies. But there are some things about infants that are predictablelike dirty diapers, sleep debt and growth spurts. We know babies grow quickly by the sheer volume of newborn to 0-3 month clothes on the registry, but the actual implications in terms of feeding aren’t often talked about. So I want to share a proposal that would make a fantastic tradition of giving a 10 day growth spurt gift/IOU to every mom out there. Women Infant and Children (WIC) Director Peter Schlichting brought up the idea with intent to give new moms extra attention and love at a time when hormone levels are dropping and infant needs are increasing as a way to promote continued breastfeeding, but a 10 Day Growth Spurt Gift should be for all moms.

All moms can probably use a little extra attention during the postpartum period, but breastfeeding moms and their newborns may especially benefit from a reminder around the time of the first major growth spurt. The gift of time and companionship when a new mom is home alone with what may seem to be an insatiable newborn can be incredible. In the United States, breastfeeding initiation rates are almost 80% but rates drop to 40% by 3 months (CDC, 2014), a drop largely attributed to concerns regarding milk supply (Li, R., Fein, S., Chen, J., Grummer-Strawn, L 2008)Often this is misguided: it is not necessarily a supply issue but a growth spurt. If we can help moms get through the first growth spurt, maybe we can help increase breastfeeding rates at 3 months and beyond.

The gift can be anything from a pedicure, massage, lunch date or anything special for the mom. It should be something for the woman, not for her baby, and adaptable to whatever the moms needs are at the time. After giving birth, focus shifts from the woman to her baby, a new mother’s hormones are in flux and if she is like most women, she has lost a little sleep since her darling little one arrived. The combination of a baby with a growth spurt and a hormonal shifts can be rough on Moms to put it mildlyso a little extra attention and focus on the Mom can help her adapt and give Mom the boost she probably needs.

Getting out of the house might be a treat at this stage, but not all women are ready to venture out, so keep in mind your friend’s perspective. If you plan a trip out- you might want to include an hour of your time to help Mom get out the door with her little one, and to offer to driveFor Moms who aren’t ready to leave home, bringing take out lunch from a favorite restaurant or having a home visit by a massage therapist with postpartum experience can be phenomenal. Take the time together to ask how she is doing, if she’s getting enough help and how breastfeeding is going for her.

The first growth spurt usually occurs between 10 and 14 days and comes at an often difficult time for breastfeeding moms. Whether breastfeeding has started off without a hitch or with challenges, the breastfeeding mom may feel that things should be getting easier. But then a few weeks after birth the baby will increase the frequency and often amount of time spent at feedings. Uplifting mother centered support can be the light that helps her get through the frequent feedings that come with growth spurts. When you give her the 10 Day Growth Spurt Gift, talk with her, she how she’s doing, and ask her if she has noticed a growth spurt, and if she hasn’t yet, you can remind her to expect one soon.

Some points that are important to know about breastfeeding that can help Mom, family and friends understand breastfeeding are:

Milk production is triggered by demand. The more a baby nurses, the more milk will be produced.

Frequent feedings are normal for a few days during growth spurts but typically space out within 2-3 days.

Breastfeeding takes more time in the beginning but long term is less time consuming than formula feeding.

Breast milk is easy for babies to digest. It moves through their digestive system with ease. That’s why babies need to nurse frequently. Formula is more difficult to digest.

Newborns should breastfeed 12 or more times in 24 hours. At the same time, it’s important to watch babies hunger cues, and not necessarily go by the clock.

Babies may cluster feed, or feed several times over several hours, then take a break. This is normal.

If your friend who has planned to breastfeed is having trouble or has questions, many communities have La Leche League Chapters (find them here http://www.llli.org/webus.htmlwhich typically hold monthly woman to woman support meetings. LLL leaders, Breastfeeding or Lactation Counselors, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and other professionals who specialize in breastfeeding are great resources too!

A little extra support, a treat, and a reminder about normal developments can help a new Mom when things may seem hard. Let’s do our best to help new moms transition into motherhood. Let’s make sure new Moms know they have a community that cares, who they can lean on, and that there are resources. And most of all, let’s take care of them.

 

(This post originally appeared on the Birth Boot Camp blog on November 24th, 2014. http://birthbootcamp.com/newborn-breastfeeding-10-day-growth-spurt/ Alex Rounds, Doula

In a nutshell, Alex Rounds is a moderately well-adjusted human being.  She is a member of La Leche League, a Breastfeeding Counselor, and Mom with a total of 8 years personal experience breastfeeding, not all of which were easy.  She has three fun, quirky and ever-challenging sweet kids. Presently, Alex’s time is consumed with homeschooling, studying midwifery, volunteering, providing breastfeeding support, and attending birth as a doula.

 

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Christmas Presence: Gifts Without Greed?

By now, we all know the drill. Stress less this holiday season. Focus on presence, not presents. Be light rather than hanging lights. Be still, be quiet, be at peace. Enjoy it.

Personally, I love this renewed emphasis on holiday calm and joy in the simple things. I wholeheartedly embrace a focus on the less material elements of the season. Not only does it make my day-to-day life more relaxed and certainly more budget friendly; I also consider it to be the far more ethical approach. So yes, please, to minimalist holidays at my house. No complaints here.

There are, however, some other, shorter, less mature people to consider, who also look forward to this season. Minimalism aside, they are counting down the minutes of December. And while they, like many children, know to give lip service to the rest, for my kids, Christmas Day is still Pile o’ Presents Day in their hearts.

Throughout the holiday season, I’m good. Stress less? Don’t have to tell me twice. Fewer gifts, diminished spending? Done. But come Christmas morning, I still feel like a hypocrite. We tear through stockings and gifts like materialism is our religion. It doesn’t matter if it’s one thing they want, one thing they’ll wear, one thing they’ll read, and a bunch of semi-practical, tiny-luxury stocking stuffers. (Fruity cartoon character toothpaste that I don’t have to share with siblings? Awesome!) Whether it’s three gifts or ten gifts or fifty, the spirit is the same. In the days that follow, they will see friends and family and the questions will come. What did Santa bring you? What did you get from your mom and dad? Or, put more plainly, though never articulated: List the new stuff you own now that it’s December 26th.

Christmas morning 2013

Sleepy-faced, early Christmas morning, 2013

It feels wrong, as if we’re fooling ourselves, spinning this as a season with reason and meaning when the climax of December remains decidedly less enlightened.

I’ve tried various solutions in recent years, in an effort to ease my conscience: Environmentally friendly toys, sustainable materials, support for small businesses, a portion of profits donated to charity, fair trade certified, ethical labor practices. Handmade, organic, thoughtful and personalized. Enough to quiet my mind, sufficient to minimize the symptoms of the underlying issue. A charming, locally-sourced, Christmas-themed band-aid.

But lurking beneath, hidden by energy-efficient LEDs sparkling in a pesticide-free tree, the sinister truth: A day of getting, getting, getting, all wrapped up in pretty paper (recycled and acid-free, of course).

The older my children get, the harder it is to deny the true spirit of the holidays: Give me stuff. Lots of it. Our lessons and frequent mentions of the real reason for the season are received as if we are characters in a Charlie Brown Christmas, a pair of legs spouting gibberish above their heads. Yeah, Mom, a time of celebration, yup, family togetherness, uh huh, peace and joy and Jesus. Right. How many more days until we get presents?

Short of not having a day of presents at all, what can a conscious, minimalism-obsessed, globally-minded parent do? Because while organic and sustainable and fair trade is commendable and important, if my kids are still obsessing over what winds up their hands on December 25th, I can’t help but feel we’re missing the larger point.

This is where I start to feel stuck. The truth is I am not ready to go radical with the holiday minimalism. While I can appreciate the concept of a Christmas morning without gift exchange, I’m just not there yet, and not sure I ever will be. For one thing, I like Christmas morning. Our whole family enjoys our time around the tree. It’s not a tradition I wish to give up, nor one I necessarily feel we should. I don’t think gift-giving is inherently wrong, but that we could do it with more graciousness and less obsession. I feel like we could do gifts better.

How, then, to live a joyful day of gift giving, without devolving into a greedy day of gift getting? Is it possible to have one without the other?

This year, we’re trying a different strategy, at attempt at something better. The practice is the same, but the conversation is different. Instead of discussing what we’ll get, we’re talking about what we’ll give.

I am not asking them to write long, wordy Christmas lists of wants and requests. Instead, gift ideas are obtained casually, simply, as if they’re no big deal. “Grandma wants to know if there are any new books you’d like to read; could you tell me a few?”

This year, our lists are ideas of gifts to give to others, and the conversation centers around that. Our questions start not with, “What should people get you?” but with a conspiratorial whisper: “Hey, come here. Want to help me come up with some gift ideas for your sister?” We are allowing them to see our excitement, to share our joy, over the act of giving, not getting.

In addition, we have begun to ask the other adults in their lives to help us shift the emphasis when it comes to presents. If you see our children in the days leading up to Christmas, don’t ask them what they’ve asked for. In the days following, don’t ask them what they got. Instead, ask them what they gave, what it was fun to see others receive. Help us to send the message that giving is better, and more important, than receiving.

Lastly, we’re trying to focus on giving in bigger ways, outside of our own family and close friends. We involve our kids in things like Toys for Tots, and in local volunteering. This afternoon, thanks to the organizational efforts of a homeschooling friend, we’re making Christmas cards and caroling at a nursing home. I don’t share the news above to brag – although I will admit that yes, I am proud of their enthusiasm for such activities – but rather to point out that we have found our efforts need to be tangible and obvious. It is not enough to say that this is a season for generosity if I am stingy and stressed with my own time and effort.

Idealistic? Perhaps. An experiment? Certainly. We have alluded to the joys of giving in the past, since they were quite young, but this will be our first year of conscious emphasis, the first year where the focus on giving is entirely intentional. And it may backfire – every gift given is a gift received, after all. There will be new possessions on December 26th, and I expect they will be excited about them.

My hope, though, is that we are able to shift the conversation enough that a day full of gifts feels in keeping with the rest of the season, that they are able to receive their presents graciously. We spend December celebrating hope, love, joy, peace, and towards the end, we celebrate by giving to one another in material ways, without expecting praise or thanks. We give not to be recognized, but with generous spirits and open hearts, thinking of others more than ourselves.

I think, I hope, that instilling such an idea now can have long term impact. I hope that it starts their lives with a conscientious approach to Christmas, that it spares them from the contradiction so many of us struggle with a bit later in life. Most importantly, I hope that our emphasis on generosity impacts not just their Christmas morning, but their world view the rest of the year.

Will it work? Time will tell. For today, I’m optimistic. This is, after all, a season for hope.


Looking for ideas to help instill a spirit of generosity in your kids this season? Here are a few of my favorite organizations and resources. Feel free to share yours in the comments!

Toys for Tots

Heifer International

Points of Light – 10 Kid-friendly Volunteer Service Projects

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The Marriage Challenge: The Struggle to Be a Healthy Parent and Partner at the Same Time

what is love

By Sonya Fehér, The Attached Family, reprinted with permission by Attachment Parenting International

Before my son was born, a friend gave me the book, Babyproofing Your Marriage. The book was based on very traditional gender roles and a husband who expected his wife to have dinner on the table when he got home and justify why the house wasn’t clean when all she had to do was hang out with a baby all day. The advice they were giving wasn’t for us.

Even so, it turned out our marriage did need some babyproofing. Decisions we made about parenting turned into unanticipated challenges to our intimacy and partnership.

The Parenting Decisions

First, I did all of the feeding. The few times my husband tried giving my son bottles of pumped milk, our son squirmed so much at being fed by anyone but me that I ended up giving him the bottle. If I was going to be feeding him anyway, I preferred to leave the hand pump out of it.

Thinking our son would start solids around six months old and my husband’s inability to feed our son would be short-lived, we believed we’d get to a point, soon, when I could leave the house for longer than the hour-and-a-half window between nursings — for doctor’s appointments, a grocery trip by myself, or some much-needed alone time. But even after our son started eating solids, he didn’t want to be fed by his dad. He thought that was my job and he wasn’t going for our changing the terms.

Since Mike wasn’t giving our son bottles and the only thing our son woke up for at night was to nurse, I did all of the nighttime parenting. We were bedsharing, so Cavanaugh would just turn to nuzzle me and I would nurse him for a few minutes before he fell back to sleep. Even though Mike changed our son’s diapers, sang songs to him, and wore Cavanaugh in a Moby and walked him around the neighborhood, he was out of the house for work ten-plus hours a day and didn’t interact with Cavanaugh during the night. When Mike got home from work sometime between 6 and 7 p.m., our son only wanted to be held by me.

Another big impact for our marriage came when Cavanaugh was about six months old. My husband moved out of the family bed. It wasn’t because he had a problem with bedsharing. He loved the coziness and shared sleep as much as our infant and I did, but my husband snored so loudly our son would wake up, which meant that I was awake and nursing when I’d rather be sleeping. Cavanaugh would fall back to sleep, and my husband would have slept through the entire thing. I, on the other hand, would lay in the bed, awake and seething.

It wasn’t just the nighttime interruptions. It was the alarm in the morning. My husband had to wake up for work hours before Cavanaugh and I would have woken up. When the alarm went off and my husband got out of bed, my son wanted out, too. So not only was my nighttime sleep disrupted but my mornings started earlier than they would have otherwise. So, my husband moved into the guest room.

The Result

We didn’t imagine at the time that our sleeping arrangement would have lasted almost two and a half years or that we’d get to a point where we felt like roommates instead of partners. The problem was that we didn’t have much to talk about because we didn’t do anything together except parent. So instead of trying to learn to sleep in the same bed again, we found ourselves negotiating how we might live in two separate houses. The ridiculous thing is that we both still love one another.

We just felt so far apart and our fights were getting more bitter, and meaner. The distance we had to reach across to try to find one another again had come out of being very conscious and loving parents who had totally neglected their marriage. If I could have handled it differently — let my son learn to feel more comfortable in his daddy’s arms, hired a babysitter so we could have more time together, and found a way of nurturing each other just as we nurtured our son — I think my marriage would have weathered these first few years of parenting better. Instead, right before my son turned three, my husband and I were talking — no, screaming — about divorce.

What I’ve Learned

Becoming parents presents challenges to most marriages, through the tasks of shared parenting, finding time to spend with one another, and the energy for your partner when you’re giving so much to take care of your children. Whether your relationship is in great shape or you haven’t given your partner much attention in a while, it’s helpful to find some topics of conversation besides the kids or the house. This is easier if you go make time for shared experiences besides parenting. Try some dates that will give you something to talk about: a murder mystery train, a zip line over a tree canopy, or some kind of class where you can learn something new together. If you need to be around for bedtime, go on an afternoon date.

And if it just doesn’t feel possible to get out of the house, try some dates after the kids go to bed. Get a dartboard, do a jigsaw puzzle or play dominoes, watch a documentary. Do some fun things together that you used to do before kids. My husband and I “play” Amazing Race. We watch the show and imagine who would do each challenge and talk about the places we’d like to go. Mostly, the key is to remind yourself what you liked about each other or had in common before children.

Study Marriage, as You Would Parenting

I also recommend reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. If you know your own love language and your partner’s — Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, or Physical Touch — you’ll both be able to communicate love in the way your partner can receive it.

The best gift you can give your children is parents in a loving and happy relationship. Attachment Parenting does not mean a choice between being attached to your partner or your kids. It’s possible and important to nurture both.

Image: Rafiq Sarlie

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Just Say Yes: Why We Should Start Accepting the Help We Need

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I am exhausted.  Like really and truly exhausted.  Both physically and emotionally.

My husband was in the hospital a few weeks ago.  He was in for about a week.  He had a leg infection, and at the time, they thought he had sepsis.  I’m not a doctor or a nurse (he is, but I’m not,) but I know that sepsis is bad.  I also know enough not to Google such diagnoses when they are afflicting a loved one, but like all of us do, I went ahead and asked Dr Google just how life threatening the condition was, and as always Dr Google didn’t disappoint.

I took my three daughters in to see him at least once each day.

I also made sure the oldest two got to school when they needed to.  I made sure the house stayed standing.  I made sure bellies were fed and hearts were full.

I dried their tears when they got overwhelmed with missing Daddy.  I answered their 356 questions each hour about why he was there and when he was coming home.  And I held their hands when they got scared in the dark without Daddy there to protect them.

I was overwhelmed.  I was also very proud of myself.  I held it together.

Very soon after he was admitted, the offers for help started coming in.  Of course I said no.  To them all.

“I’m fine.”  I would say.  Or, “I’ll let you know if we need anything, but thank you.  We’re all good.”

Inside I was screaming, “yes please!  Anything please!” But outside, I was showing everyone I had it all together.

Except for when I didn’t anymore.  Eventually it got to be a bit too much.  All of the stress and all of the worry piled up on top of this unexpected onslaught of responsibilities felt like it was starting to suffocate me.  I was tired and I was lonely and I most definitely needed help.

So I said yes.

I let someone bring me groceries one night when I needed them.  I said yes to the offers to bring my daughter home from school.  I said yes to the meals.  I said yes to the offers of companionship.

And something strange happened.  The world didn’t fall apart.  People weren’t angry at me for accepting their offers.  People weren’t rolling their eyes when I said, “yes.”  I didn’t lose friends left and right.

Instead I saw genuine kindness in people’s eyes.  I saw the joy they took from my gratitude.  And I felt my heart start to overflow with gratitude and appreciation.

I learned that people care and people are caring.  I saw a whole network of helping hands.  And it made me want to be a part of that network.  It was amazing just how quickly people I didn’t necessarily even know all that well came together to help me help my family.

There is so much to say about our culture… good and bad.  Individualism is good.  Self-sufficiency is stellar.  Fortitude in hard times is crucial.  But we don’t live in a vacuum, and none of us can parent in a vacuum.

The old phrase, “it takes a village to raise a family,” used to haunt me because I thought our culture had lost the village.  The only semblance of it I saw was through the computer, and that can only be of so much help during trying times.

But what I learned from this whole ordeal is that the village still exists — we just have to allow ourselves to become a part of it.

Where once I saw emptiness, now I see a village.  I see helping hands and caring hearts.  I see a world that I want my daughters to be a part of.  I see examples in others that I want to hold up to my girls as inspiration as to how people can shine in the darkest of times.

And I think of what we would have missed out on if I hadn’t accepted the help.  My girls wouldn’t have seen these friendships sprout up all around us, and they wouldn’t have learned about the beauty of interdependence.

I am happy to say that we are back on our feet now.  We are back to being fully functioning… well, as fully functioning as we ever are!  But now I look at the world differently.  Instead of being afraid to cross into the space of another, I am more welcoming.  I seek out others.  I offer help, and I pray the offers are accepted.

Because where we were blessed, I now want to bless.

Being a mom in today’s world is ridiculously hard.  I’m glad I learned (albeit the hard way) that it is so much easier when we all join hands and stand together.

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Being a “Good Enough” Mother

walk in the park

I’m not always the mother I want to be.

I become impatient with my son’s normal toddler behaviors. I react out of frustration, rather than responding with compassion. I’m sometimes overwhelmed by his big emotions. I can’t always be the calm in the eye of his storms, or provide the grounding presence that he needs.

Life used to be predictable, my efforts leading to their intended results. I used to thrive based on my accomplishments. I expected perfection from myself, fully accepting the illusion that achieving it was possible.

But Life brings us what we need, presents us with circumstances that allow us to grow into the people we’re meant to become. I won’t claim to understand the infinite reasons this little person was brought into my life, but, clearly, I’m supposed to be learning to be more comfortable with imperfection. It seems that Life believes that I will benefit from a continual lesson in accepting my own shortcomings.

And yet, this indescribable love I feel for my son often renders me powerless against the specter of perfection. The stakes seem so high, and I want more than anything to provide the very best for him. My previous life’s endeavors seem inconsequential compared to being his mother. Never before have I wanted so deeply to achieve perfection, and never before has it been so impossibly out of reach.

Because, let’s face it, parenting isn’t exactly conducive to being your best self. The constant fog of sleep deprivation. The near impossibility of meeting your own needs, even with the best of support. The ease with which you can forget that you even have needs, needs separate from those of the little person whose life has, in some ways, become your own. Not to mention that if you have any leftover emotions from your own childhood, they will most certainly resurface when you become the parent.

Perhaps it’s our indescribable love for our children, a love that can feel crushingly weighty, that leads us to impose upon ourselves this pressure to accomplish the impossible. Or maybe this drive for parenting perfection is the fault of our culture’s unrealistic imagining of motherhood, a sugar-coated version of reality in which complete self-sacrifice never leads to resentment.

In any event, the truth is, our children don’t need us to be perfect. They simply need us to be “good enough.” To be real human beings, complete with faults. To continue showing up, not letting our perceived failures get the best of us. To take care of ourselves, so that we can better take care of them.

Yes, they also need us to calmly hold space for their sometimes overwhelmingly big emotions. And, yes, they need us to be patient when they’re struggling, to respond with empathy and compassion, even when we, ourselves, are feeling bewildered. Thankfully, though, they don’t need us to be this idealistic version of ourselves at all moments.

Even knowing this, I’m often overcome with guilt and regret when I don’t live up to my self-imposed ideal. And then what my son needs—what we both need—is for me to have some compassion for myself, too, to forgive myself for not always being the mother that I want to be. To accept that “good enough” is . . . well, enough.

Though it seems paradoxical, forgiving ourselves for our parenting transgressions allows us to become better parents. Self-forgiveness is not a license to treat our children poorly, and having compassion for ourselves in our difficult moments does not excuse our behavior. But when guilt prevents us from acknowledging our less-than-ideal parenting moments, we are certain to repeat them. Our lack of self-compassion spills over into our relationships with our children.

As I endlessly repeat to myself in moments of overwhelm, “Gentle with myself, gentle with my little one.”

Our mistakes, too, are valuable learning opportunities for our children, who are, for better or worse, eternally modeling our behavior and reflecting it back to us. No doubt they learn that they’re worthy, lovable beings in part based upon how we treat them. But they also learn this, or don’t, from observing how we treat ourselves. When we model self-compassion and self-forgiveness, they learn that they’re worthy despite their mistakes, lovable even in their difficult moments.

And when we acknowledge our mistakes, and ask for their forgiveness, our children learn that they deserve our respect. They learn that ruptured relationships can be repaired. And they learn that love isn’t contingent on perfection, that they, too, are “good enough.”

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Why We Didn’t Make Him Sit on Santa’s Lap

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‘Tis the season for thrusting terrified children onto the lap of a stranger disguised in a red suit and a bushy white beard. The obligatory photo with Santa is so much a part of our holiday culture that we hardly think twice, ignoring the cries of our infants and toddlers for the (albeit brief) moments while the photo is snapped. The internet is replete with photos of children sobbing on Santa’s lap, many of them with arms outstretched, begging for rescue by their off-camera parents.

Maybe I’m just a Scrooge. After all, it’s pretty unlikely that a few panicky moments on the lap of a strange man in a red suit would result in permanent trauma, right? But, for me, that’s not the point. In any other context, would we find it acceptable to hand our children to a stranger, disregarding their obvious terror and ignoring their cries for help? Then why is it so easy for us to discount the emotional distress of our children when a photo with Santa is in the offing?

To me, this tradition is simply another way that we disregard our children’s emotions. We know that they are in no real (physical) danger, so we see the fear apparent on their tear-streaked faces as unwarranted. We wouldn’t feel justified in ignoring another adult’s fear simply because we didn’t perceive the same danger. Yet we do this to our own children, who trust us to keep them safe in this world, without a second thought. When we force a terrified child onto the lap of Santa, ignoring his cries for our help, we breach that trust.

To be clear, I don’t think that parents who partake in this tradition, despite their children’s tears, are bad parents. But I do think we should pay attention when our cultural norms urge us to disregard our children’s emotions, even if only for the brief moments needed to snap a photo. We should ask ourselves whether the photo with Santa is worth it, or whether we’re just doing it because, well, it’s what we all do. This isn’t about judging other parents; it’s about questioning the cultural norms that encourage insensitivity to our children’s needs.

Needless to say, our family opted out of this tradition, choosing not to force our toddler son, who at seventeen months is just beginning to learn about Christmas, to sit on Santa’s lap. But I’m not a total bah humbug. I want to introduce him to the magic of Christmas, including the man in the red suit who inexplicably travels the world in a sled pulled by a team of reindeer.

So we opted for a more informal, less tearful, introduction to Old Saint Nick, attending a “Cookies with Santa” event at a local toy store. Santa was seated non-threateningly on one side of a room filled with crafty activities and, most importantly, a table of cookies. As is his nature, my son regarded Santa measuredly, eyeing him occasionally from across the room while he decorated a paper photo frame and filled a round plastic ornament with ribbon and beads.

Naturally, our son seized the infrequent opportunity to indulge and spent much of his time eating cookies. Santa’s a perceptive guy, and he noticed that my husband and I were carefully explaining his presence, his red suit, his big white beard, to our son. So he approached slowly, a cookie in his outstretched hand. Safely beside his mom and dad—and, no doubt, tempted by the cookie—our son accepted the offering. And then he was convinced to return the good deed, giving a cookie to Santa himself.

When the time for the obligatory picture came, our whole little family stepped in the camera frame. Despite making friends over cookies, our son wanted no part of sitting with Santa. So this year’s picture includes all three of us—my husband to the left of the jolly old man, and me holding our son in my arms on his right.  Not a tear was shed.

Many children, of course, will be overjoyed at the opportunity to snuggle up with Santa, memorializing their meeting with a photo to hang on the fridge. But for others, being thrust onto the lap of a stranger is nothing short of terrifying. So, please, respect your child’s feelings this holiday season as you consider the photo with Santa. Building your child’s trust is far more important than any photo opportunity.

Image: Lady Dragonfly 

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4 Tips for Disciplining a Sensitive Child

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By Kayris, APtly Said, reprinted with permission by Attachment Parenting International.

I have two children, a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. They have vastly different personalities, and I’ve had to tailor my parenting to address those differences. My son is energetic, independent and fearless, he is a picky eater, and even as a young baby, he didn’t sleep a lot. My daughter is more reserved and cautious, she sleeps and eats well, and she’s quieter.

The differences between them are most apparent when it comes to discipline.

When my son was two, a timeout was effective form of discipline for him. He’s the kind of kid you needed to physically pull away from sticking his fingers in the electrical socket because he wouldn’t listen any other way. A timeout is still a part of my discipline repertoire for him, and part of the reason it is such a punishment is because he has to stop playing, leave his toys and be by himself sitting on his bed. 99% of the time, he comes out a few minutes later, all apologetic and hugs me and says he won’t do whatever it was he did. Now that he is four, disciplining him continues to be a more “hands-on” approach. We don’t spank our children, but I do have to take his hands, and have him look me in the face, so I have his full attention.

With my daughter, all I have to usually do is look at her and shake my head and she stops whatever it is. Furthermore, I rarely have to correct her for the same thing more than once or twice. She’s the kind of child who needs a reminder before someone is getting ready to leave. She doesn’t handle abruptness well, and she doesn’t handle separation well unless she’s been prepared. So sticking her in a time out, by herself, is more damaging to her. Raising my voice isn’t an option either, because it startles her and she cries. Discipline shouldn’t be traumatic, it should be fair and gentle and respectful.

For my sensitive child, some tactics that have worked are:

  • Redirection: Since she is only two, sometimes it’s not worth it to battle over every little thing. Quite often, distracting her with a toy or a sticker is an easy way to end the tantrum. This is particularly effective when she is doing something like trying to pet our grouchy cat or when she’s frustrated.
  • Time Out (On My Lap): As I mentioned, a time out, alone in her room, is too harsh of a punishment for her, but removing her from the situation and giving her a few minutes of sitting quietly on my lap has worked wonders.
  • Acknowledge The Validity Of Her Feelings: It’s hard to be two and not have the language skills to adequately express emotions. So while it can be hard for me to listen to her cry or scream or whine, it’s helpful for me to remember that sometimes I feel like crying and screaming too. I just don’t, because I’m an adult, and my daughter’s reaction to frustrating circumstances is completely age appropriate.
  • Ignore The Noise: I’m a mom, but I’ve also spent the last 15 years working with dogs. So I’m very good at tuning out annoying noise. And when applied to my children, I’ve learned that I don’t need to step in every time. If my children are having a disagreement over a toy, sometimes I stand back and let them try to work it out themselves. If my daughter is screeching because she wants a cup of milk, I simply say, “I need you to talk nicer, I can’t understand screaming,” and then ignore her until she calms down.

Making sure that my methods of discipline are appropriate for the personality of my children has worked wonderfully, and our home is much more peaceful.

Do you have a sensitive child? What method of discipline have you found effective? Discuss it in our Gentle Discipline forum.

Image: Russ

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The Journey of My Baby’s Illness

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My youngest child had a serious illness as a baby. It began at just six weeks old: a simple cough that suddenly turned into not breathing. A month in hospital followed by another ten day stay a few weeks later. And then days, weeks and months of recovery at home.

Being in hospital with a little baby is stepping into an alternate universe. It does not take long to learn the routine – the lights go on at seven every morning, whether you are ready or not. The doctors make their rounds at nine. Then the rest of the day then stretches ahead….minutes and hours of reducing one’s own needs to the bare minimum, then juggling them against an unfamiliar environment that makes no space for you, and the constant care a sick baby needs.

My baby had a life threatening disease. I will never forget the medical staff, standing next to my son’s hospital cot, resuscitation equipment in hand in case this time was the time his heart would stop. Waiting, for what seemed like hours, for him to take a breath. We went through this ordeal every five minutes, all through one long night, at its worst.

I will never forget that 3am conversation my husband and I had one quiet night, the night after I had called him in tears and said, “You had better come in”. That conversation of what if? That conversation where I said I could let my baby go if I had to, that I just couldn’t bear seeing him suffer this way anymore. That feeling that I was breaking apart – he was still so, so small. Still a part of me.

Slowly, he began to improve. Our  world was reduced to a two square foot space, thanks to the monitors and wires attached to his chest. In any other situation I would have relished this extended, one on one time with my baby. However I spent every minute yearning for normality, for my other children, and for life, which was pulsing and evolving everywhere around me, everywhere except where I was. I only ever took one photograph of him in hospital. I knew once it was over I would not want to remember.

In hospital.

In hospital.

Nobody realises that leaving hospital is not the end: it is the beginning. And it is hard, because the recovery must now fit into what life was before – other children and school drop offs and bath time and meals to cook. Once the critical period was over, my own delayed emotional reaction to the utter terror of that time kicked in. For months my mind existed in a fog of shock, and I slowly waited for my soul to regroup.

This illness stole my son’s babyhood from me. I could not enjoy it. Those post-hospital months were anxiety filled: he could not be left alone at all, ever. Not even for a quick toilet trip or walk to the mailbox.  His cot was moved into the living room so I was within arms’ reach while he slept. Once he began finally to eat solids, choking became the new hazard. And over two years later, the distinctive sound of his cough still triggers an adrenaline rush in me.

Developmental milestones were now delayed. Everything was delayed, including the sports and other activities our other four children enjoyed; including my marriage. When he finally walked at eighteen months, it was a relief more than a joy. Gradually we ticked those milestones off the list: the first time I have ever paid attention to such things.

Delayed speech and possible hearing issues have been the last repercussion to deal with, and the latest tests are all clear! My darling little boy will soon be three years old and I can finally say it is over.  As we emerge from this cloud which has hung over our lives for over two years, I am so thankful for my son, and the numerous gifts he has brought to our family, both because of, and despite his illness.

If you find yourself dealing with illness in your child this Holiday Season, know my thoughts and prayers are with you.  

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Why I Made My 4-Year-Old Return His Stolen Toy and Apologize

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The other day we were at one of the local discount stores. You know the kind that sells everything from canned peaches, to socks, to toilet paper. I mostly purchase plastic bins from this retailer, they definitely have the best price and I love how organized the bins make me feel!

Anyways, the other day we were there picking up a few odds and ends. When we got home, my 4-year-old son, Jaxson, was oddly quiet. I asked him what was going on and he slowly put his hand out and showed me this small toy that fit into the palm of his hand. I immediately recognized the price sticker as being from the store. I asked him where he got it and he meekly replied that he took it. I gasped. Oh my. You stole something?! I was shocked, stunned that he would be so brazen as to take something without asking, let alone without paying for it!

My reaction alone made him start to cry. He knew he did something wrong. “I’m so sorry Momma, I am so sorry,” he kept repeating between his tears.

Here it was, a major moment in motherhood. I had to make the right decision, but what was I to do? How harsh of a punishment did he deserve? How serious was this? These questions were going through my head at lightning speed. Then I flashed to a memory of my own childhood. I was at the grocery store with my mother. She was in the checkout line, unloading the groceries and I saw some gum that I really wanted. I asked my mom if we could get it and she said no. But I really wanted that gum! I took it and put it in my pocket. As we were all packed back into the car, my mother turned around to see me smacking away on my juicy bubble gum.

“Where did you get that gum?” she asked.

“From the store,” I replied. I remember the gum started to taste gross as fear spread throughout my body.

“That gum was not yours, you stole from the store. We are going to go back and apologize to the manager and return the gum.”

“What? No way Mom, don’t make me do that!”

But she did. She marched me right back into the store and found the manager and made me apologize for stealing the gum. I was mortified, scared and embarrassed but I got the point loud and clear that stealing was not allowed.

I gave Jaxson a big hug, looked him in the eyes and explained to him that what he did was wrong. I told him that tomorrow we were going to head back to the store, return the stolen toy, and apologize to the store manager. He was scared, he was nervous, but I could see a sense of relief come over him. He knew what he did was wrong and I was going to help him make it better. He did ask if he was going to jail. (How does he even know what jail is?) I wondered that fact, but decided to ask him later and instead stick to the point. Holding back a smile, I replied that no he would not be going to jail but that people who steal do go to jail so we never want to steal again. I didn’t want to scare him too much, but I did want to get the point across.

The following morning, he was very timid and I knew this was weighing heavy on him. I dropped him at school and told him that we would go to the store after school.

“Do we have to Mom?,” he said so sweetly.

“Yes, buddy, we do. We have to make this right. We have to apologize and return the stolen toy.”

When school was over that morning, we drove over to the store. He started to cry softly. I wondered if I was being too harsh. We got out of the car, hand in hand walked into the store and found the manager. Jaxson was a rush of emotions at this point. He could barely speak, but he managed to hand over the toy, say he was sorry and that he would never do it again. The manager was fantastic. I am sure this is not the first time he has had this happen. He didn’t try to brush it over or make it as if it was not a big deal. He graciously accepted Jaxson’s apology and thanked him for being honest.

We left the store and Jaxson literally skipped to the car. This weight of his deed was lifted from his tiny shoulders and he was free again. It was so wonderful to watch his transformation and know that we did the right thing. I am not going to say that he will never steal again but I have hope that when he is tempted again he will remember this day and make the right decision.

Honesty is a tricky lesson for our children. Heck, it is a hard one for adults to get too! I have to keep reminding myself that I am raising young men. They need rules and parameters to live by, so that they know what is right and what is wrong. So when life throws a lesson in your face, embrace it, and know that even though you may not want to deal with it right now, do it. Your future daughter-in-law will thank you!

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Does This Hospital Gown Help Me Feel Empowered?

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Hospital gowns on birthing women. A harmless way to keep your nice clothes from getting stained, or the first step down the road of intervention? I love what Maria Pokluda has to say on this subject. As one of the busiest doulas in DFW and co-creator of Birth Boot Camp DOULA, Maria has seen countless women give birth in hospital gowns…or other things (or nothing!) 

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Ah, the lowly hospital gown.  It isn’t much to look at and for moms planning to breastfeed, it isn’t all that functional once the baby arrives.  However, donning the gown is often one of the very first rituals of giving birth in a hospital.  Most women don’t even think twice about shedding whatever maternity clothes they arrived in and changing into a gown that the hospital has provided for the occasion of their labor.  However, does the gown represent a good thing or a bad thing for a laboring woman?

For some, the hospital gown represents the perfect accessory in which to handle the various bodily fluids that may be present during labor and birth.  It is taken off when the delivery is done, it disappears and mom and dad never have to deal with any laundry issues that might occur….just like Las Vegas, whatever happens to the gown in the hospital, stays in the hospital.

For others though, the hospital gown represents something else entirely….it is the first intervention in labor.  By removing her own clothing, a laboring mom becomes a patient with a uniform that separates her from the “civilian” population of the un-hospitalized.   This uniform has the effect of transforming her into a patient and not an active participant in the process of birthing her child. Thus for this mom, the gown represents a loss of her sense of self and maybe even the loss of her voice during labor.

So *is* the hospital gown a must for giving birth? Absolutely not. If you are the mom that loves the gown, embrace it in all its backless glory. If you find the gown to be unfashionable, uncomfortable, immodest or otherwise annoying, don’t wear it. The hospital will not be offended if you remain in your own clothes or even rotate through a series of costume changes as labor progresses. (I mean labor lasts longer than the Super Bowl Halftime show and those acts usually have several outfit changes).

Many women wear sports bras, nursing tanks and even bathing suits if they are planning to labor in the tub or shower. There are also companies that sell labor wear such as cute gowns or dresses designed to accommodate possibly needed medical equipment. Skipping the gown does not mean letting it all hang out…though that is always an option too, of course.

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Making the choice to put on the gown or not is the first of many choices a woman will make in labor and, as far as those choices may go, this one is pretty non-controversial. Simply tell the nurse you have brought your own clothes or that you prefer to wear what you currently have on. Obviously at some point your care provider may have to access certain areas generally found under one’s clothing, but these items can be removed easily when the time comes and a skirt is just as easily pushed up as a gown.

Bottom line, when you are in labor, wear what makes you feel like the strong, competent and beautiful mom you are. Wear clothes that enhance your experience of labor. The choice of what to may turn out to be the most frivolous of the choices you make that day, but you may find laboring in your clothes to be the first step toward a more empowering labor.

Maria Pokluda is a doula serving families in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She got involved in birth through her own experience of researching infertility and then pregnancy and birth. She now has four children as well as a patient husband. Maria is the co-creator and trainer of Birth Boot Camp DOULA and owns greatexpectationsbirth.com.

Photo credit: jonlarge / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: HoboMama / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

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