Is the Erica May Rengo Case a Hoax?

Baby Levi
Baby Levi, Erica’s oldest son

About three years ago, there was a news story that caught the social media world by storm. “Habiba” was a homeless nursing mother whose baby was taken away from her. You can read more about that heart-breaking case here. I was quite surprised to find that the google search term “Is Habiba a Hoax” sent thousands of web surfers to our blog. I ended the post with these sentiments:

For the sake of argument, if this is a hoax, it’s one I’d be proud to be duped by: protecting the rights of mothers and babies everywhere.

So now, here we are again with the story of Erica May Rengo, a home-birthing, breastfeeding mama of three in Washington. Erica had her children taken away from her by Child Protection Services. There’s not much news coverage of the case yet, aside from this article on Medical Kidnap. At the end of the article, readers are encouraged to call or email the mayor, which I did. The office said they had received hundreds of calls and were going to be in touch with CPS regarding the case. (Erica and Cleave go to trial on Dec 2nd)

Some people are questioning the validity of the information in the article, the omission of facts, and the entire story in general. As I said in Habiba–it’s true: we don’t have all the facts! Of course we don’t. Do we ever? But I think that’s missing the point in this instance. I always want to do the best with what I have. And what I have is a story that tugs at my heart.

However, it’s not up to me to have the facts. I’m not a trained CPS professional. I’m not a judge hearing the case, or a lawyer presenting it. This isn’t a charity that I’m sending money to, or an organization I’m devoting time to. BUT what I can do, I want to. Like, calling a governor’s office to ask him to please investigate, (immediately!) and if the facts remain as presented in the article, to reunite the Rengo family as soon as humanly possible? Maybe there are additional details that will come out, and there are other avenues that would be better for this family before reunification. I don’t know. But I want her to have a fair investigation. Erica has twin babies and a toddler that need their mama. (The goal of CPS is to keep families intact as often as possible, BTW. So unless there are some egregious facts omitted from the article, CPS failed.)

This is a story that hits close to home. As a nursing, home-birthing mother, I relate to Erica. I feel for Erica. I hurt for Erica. And quite honestly, I find it hard to even think about how her children are doing. I imagine how mine would be without me, and it’s painful to consider. Yet, seeing the outpouring of support for this family inspires me, and shows our mama-solidarity in the face of injustice. If this story is true, imagine the difference a ten second phone call, a quick email, or even a Facebook post can make in a family’s life. And if it isn’t, I will never regret time spent helping others in good faith.

**Updated to add (11/27): For the record, I don’t believe this is a hoax. Ask my mother. I called her to talk about it – and she called the governor too. Ask my husband, every 15 minutes last night I asked him, “Could you imagine if…”, “That could have been us…”. Ask my 4.5 year old, who came in and out of the dining room as I wrote the post, watching Mommy “help another mommy.”

**************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

5 Favorite Tools for Going Diaper Free

DSCN0002

We practice Elimination Communication. While the goal is “early potty training,” my younger daughter is turning nine months now, and I’m itching to go entirely diaper free with her. When you remove diapers from the equation, you rely more on cues and intuition, putting yourself more in tune with baby and YOU! Plus, I’m all set with the weekly diaper load down two flights of stairs, and the exploding diaper bin in her room. She is also a huge wiggler and does not like getting a diaper on lying down. We’re in undies/bare bum part time now, but in the next month or two, I’ll pack up all but about 6 cloth diapers, and use them as rags for any misses. I have been thinking about what I’ll need to take the diaper-free plunge, given my experience with her sister. Here are 5 important things for a diaper-free journey!

1. Toddler training undies. We’ve used undies part time at eight months with both my daughters. I didn’t want to go bare bottomed with my first as it was cold. And because I knew some misses were inevitable, and I didn’t want to wash more pairs of pants than I had to. But try to find undies for petite bums! It took me weeks of researching and trialing, but I settled on these because they were both affordable and absorbent. They worked well for my average sized 9 month old. I’ve had friends who swear by these ones by Blueberry.

2. A throne and a corner. You may already have one of these if you’re practicing EC, but I found that having a designated potty space, where my girls would read books or play with toys, was key to consistency and making pottying an enjoyable experience. I bought an antique wooden potty at a yard sale for $10. It’s literally one of my favorite baby purchases ever. I feel like half of my older daughter’s waking hours were spent on that potty! I’d post a picture, but she’s half naked in all them. We got something like this. 

3. Vinegar and water. You probably already have both these things in your home, but when you ditch the diapers, there will be misses and messes. Yes, WILL. So, have a spray bottle of 50:50 handy, and wipe down the floor, carpet, or high chair. The first time I tried this, I was skeptical, but after the vinegar spray dissipates, there’s no trace of urine!

4. Towels or wool blankets. If you are going cold turkey and moving out of diapers at night too, these may come in handy. Some moms put them over the sheets and then just throw the wet towels on the floor in the middle of the night (assuming co-sleeping) if their little one pees. I found them really annoying while l was trying to sleep, and since the night time misses were only about once a week, I just had an extra folded towel near my pillow, and then used a few under the sheet as an extra mattress protection. I would throw a clean towel over a miss and deal with it in the morning. We prioritize sleep here!

5. Patience (and a sense of humor!). It may take a little getting used to for both you and your baby! But once you take the plunge and put away the diapers for good, it will likely take your EC relationship to a whole new level. I found that when we were relying on diapers for back-up, I would get lazy, and just let my daughters go in their diaper. But once that wasn’t an option, we developed a potty rhythm and misses were far less frequent than with the diapers! It took a few weeks though, so don’t give up! You will have good days, and not-as-good days. I found that the whole process was far more enjoyable when I took it all in stride and armed myself with the vinegar and some diaper rags!

Good luck! Are you considering taking the plunge to go diaper-free? What’s holding you back?

**************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

5 Ways to Bond With Your Baby When Baby-wearing Isn’t an Option

1669693_815759245062_922873618074062788_o

I’m a huge baby-wearing fan. My first daughter literally fell asleep in the carrier, and only in the carrier, for the first 21 months of her life. She lived in a brown Boba for almost two years. She did weddings, funerals, holidays, shopping, walking, cooking with me. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way. I loved wearing her, and assumed the rest of my babies would have that same luxury of living their first few years so close to mama.

Shortly after my second daughter was born though, I realized it wasn’t going to be such smooth sailing. I had incredibly painful varicose veins for much of my second pregnancy, and though they went away after birth, once my baby passed the ten pound mark, I could feel them flaring slightly. As her weight increased, my leg felt worse, and around six months postpartum, I developed pelvic pain and hemorrhoids that made it challenging to hold her, never mind wear her.

I felt guilty, sad, and at a loss. It seemed like one of my best mothering tools had been taken from me. Luckily, my daughter was an early crawler, and a very content baby so I managed to make dinners and do other tasks around the house while she played, instead of carrying her. But still, I wanted to be close to her. I’ve had to be more intentional but I’ve worked through the feelings of loss and instead try to focus on the ways we CAN bond! Here are my top five ways of staying connected to my daughter while trying to preserve my body.

1. Co-sleeping. My little one sleeps in the crook of my arm part of the night, sometimes on my chest, and sometimes, when I’m tired, on the other side of the bed. But we are always close, and I wouldn’t trade our nighttime snuggles for anything – not even an uninterrupted night’s sleep! We also spend about a half hour snuggling in the morning with her older sister in the bed, so everyone feels like they have their physical needs for love and affection met before our feet hit the ground! (If you’re concerned about safety, check out some of Dr. James McKenna’s research on safe co-sleeping, and his safety guidelines.) 

2. Co-bathing. Yup, it’s as easy as it sounds. Jump into the bath with your baby. If they are going through that distracted nursing stage, it’s a great way to gently encourage a good feed. It’s relaxing for you too!

3. Floor time! I am so much more intentional about tumbling on the floor with my second baby. She does “airplane” on my legs while I lie on my back, and crawls over, under, and around me. I barely ever sit on a couch, and when I do crafts or read with my older daughter, we always sit on the floor instead of at the table, so the baby can participate at all times. We also do lots of hugs and kisses on the floor.

10655391_817084159922_2401278105236237301_o

4. Use your stroller wisely. I didn’t use a stroller at all until my eldest turned 2. And even then I used it sparingly. I just felt like they inhibited our freedom to walk off the path, to get through doors, down stairs etc. I still feel that way, but there’s no way we could do museums or park trips without one now that I can’t hold my baby for more than a few minutes at a time. I try to push her to a destination, and then take her right out, and play on the floor for a bit before we need to move again.

I considered buying a stroller with a seat that faced toward me, but I knew my girl wouldn’t be in a stroller for that much longer–as soon as my kiddos can walk, they do–it just takes a bit longer to get places! If circumstances were different though, I may have bought something like this as a long term investment so I could interact and so that my girl could feel safe. (When babies face the world in their stroller, it can be stressful.)  As it is, I like to have my older daughter push the stroller when we walk around town, and I sometimes walk next to or in front of the stroller, making faces, and being silly with the baby.

5. Relax. We are an on-the-go family. We live close to downtown Boston, and my older daughter and I used to go into town weekly. We loved riding the train, exploring the parks in the city, and going to museums. It’s been really hard for me to slow down in that respect, and plan our day around home naps (rather than carrier naps, as in the past), but it’s been a sweet time for my older daughter and I to have time cooking, drawing, reading, or just resting. It’s a season! Before I know it, my baby will be walking, and it will be hard to catch her, never mind pick her up!

**

A few other strategies made life a bit easier too. Accept help! Dad puts baby to bed when he’s home, Nana carries her down the stairs if we are going out together, Big Sister watches her when I run to the laundry. At church, instead of carrying the baby up the stairs to Sunday School while I drop off her sister, I leave the baby downstairs with a loving friend. (One of her favorites happens to be a male friend who is at least 6’4″ with glasses and a booming voice. He’s also a trained NICU nurse.)

I’m also much more organized. All the diapering supplies are in one place. The things we need to get out the door are all by the door. I can’t afford to be running around the house looking for things with her in my arms. I also do use the Ergo back carry in a pinch!

**************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

How and Why to Practice Elimination Communication

IMG_9253

Yesterday we looked at the history of diapering/pottying in the US. Today, let’s see why we may want to take a different road…

Given our recent past, it’s easy to see why anything but a diapered baby is met with skepticism and even condemnation for parents “pushing” their children too quickly. But, as with co-sleeping, experts have failed to clarify the real issue. How you respond to your baby’s elimination needs is entirely different than when.

We don’t advocate turn-of-the-century tactics. In fact, we cringe when people comment that our little ones are “potty trained.” We aim to understand their needs, and lay the foundation for a relationship of mutual respect. We’re communicating with our babies, not training them. The difference may seem subtle (and possibly even irrelevant) before you start.

Let’s draw a firmer boundary between traditional toilet training and potty-based communication. First and foremost, with EC there’s no negativity around elimination. If your child arches his back when you put him on the potty, you’re free to let him go—even if he pees in the corner, or in his diaper a moment later. Sometimes that’s frustrating for mom, but it’s counterproductive to obsess about the miss, shame the child or use any form of punishment.

EC philosophy inherently rejects all timelines as well. Babies are individuals, so assuming they should be at a given stage is detrimental to all involved. EC is about responding to your baby’s needs—so have fun and relax. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing!

In many societies throughout the globe, babies are pottied in response to their cues. In China, for example, cotton, water, and soap are all scarce items. Mothers make a whistling sound to cue their babies, and little ones dressed in split-crotch pants easily eliminate in response. By the time children can walk, around 12-14 months, they know to squat and eliminate on their own.

In many places throughout the globe, including India, Africa, Russia, and South America, locals use a similar method. In warmer climates, babies are carried naked in slings. Mothers respond to babies’ cues and signals by taking the baby out of the sling, and little ones are free to eliminate without soiling themselves or their mamas.

So…What Now?

You want to start communicating with your little one about elimination, but you have no idea where to start. We didn’t, either. Here are four tools to launch your EC relationship.

Get going. You can potty your baby from birth, or as early as you feel comfortable. Miriam got started soon after birth; Megan waited three months until they had settled into more of a routine. It’s most important that pottying is enjoyable for everyone. If you’re overly stressed by the idea, it’s probably not the right time.

Read cues. It may seem hard to believe, but during his first few months, your little one probably communicates before he goes, whether you respond or not! Common signals include sudden fussing, squirming, grunting or crying out, becoming still, waking from sleep, or a specific facial expression.

Once your baby’s old enough to notice visual cues, you may want to incorporate the sign for potty. Around six months—or earlier, if you’d like—you can show your baby the toilet sign every time you say potty. In American Sign Language, it looks like a closed fist, shaken from side to side, with your thumb peeking out between the index and middle finger.

Once a baby begins signing, it’s pretty amazing to have him deliberately tell you that he needs to go. For some, this happens as early as nine months, but all babies develop and communicate at different rates and in different ways.

Give cues. Around the world, mothers give their babies cues, like “ssshhh” or “psssss.” In the early days of your EC journey, the cue is given when mom notices her baby going. Eventually, her baby associates the cue with relaxing his bladder and releases when he hears the sound.

Get support. In today’s wired world, if none of your neighbors practice EC, you can still get all the help and encouragement you need online. Check out The Other Baby Book’s Facebook page or Diaperfreebaby.org for more support!

**************************************************************************

This post was excerpted from The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. Check out our book to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like natural birthing, on-cue nursing, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing! And the e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

**************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

A Peek into the Past – Infant Pottying and Diapering

 Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First YearThe e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

**********************************************************************************************************************************************************

IMG_0049Americans live in a land of extremes. Our cultural norms can shift dramatically in a matter of years. In terms of elimination, we’ve gone from strict, regimented and arguably abusive potty training, to a permissive, wait-til-he’s-ready-even-if-it’s-five approach. To set the stage for our country’s infant toileting practices, we’ll give you a crash course in the last 100 years of American pottying.

Surprisingly, we found little evidence of early EC pioneers in the States. Rather than throwing off the shackles of diapers during the revolution, our ancestors focused on tea. The good news is they left the best part of the rebellion – the part with environmental, economic, and relationship perks – to moms like us!

Starting around 1900, parents were urged by family doctors to strictly toilet train babies before they could walk. Moms were doubly motivated to train their babies. With no electric washing machines, moms were eager to stop washing diapers by hand. Health concerns also played an important role. Moms feared constipation, which can lead to many health issues. Staying regular from an early age was an important way to keep healthy. So far, so good, but here’s the catch. Rather than serving up prunes, moms inserted sticks of soap into baby’s bottom. Dr. Herman Bundesen, author of Our Babies wrote,

“Before the mother begins the 10:00 morning nursing, she should place the pot, a roll of toilet paper, a soap stick, a towel, and a glass of hot water (to wet the soap stick) upon the table within easy reach….If after several minutes [on the pot], the bowel movement does not take place…the soap stick should be inserted and held into place until the bowels begin to move, but not longer than ten minutes….If this is kept up for three or four days, the baby usually will have learned to have regular bowel movements at the end of this time without the use of the soap stick.”

Are you getting a picture of early American infant toilet training? It wasn’t a feel-good rite of passage, complete with sticker charts and M&M’s. In the 1920s, our buddy Dr. Watson also endorsed early toilet training. He told parents to hold a chamber pot under their newborn, and to begin a serious training regimen by three months. Some parents strapped their infants to small potty chairs as soon as they had neck control.

These harsh toilet training methods made a lasting impression on our society. In the 1940s, Dr. Benjamin Spock, the most prominent babycare authority of his time, revolted against early toilet training and recommended waiting until babies sat independently, around seven to nine months, before starting. But the biggest paradigm shift came from Spock’s successor, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton, who felt children were not ready to deal with their elimination needs until 24 to 30 months.  His theory was based on observation of one-to-two year old children whose parents used rigid toilet training methods. According to Brazelton’s 1999 book Toilet Training – The Brazelton Way, fears that children wouldn’t complete training in a timely manner spurred parents to use both rewards and punishments, which traumatized young children, and resulted in constipation from withholding bowel movements; bed-wetting; and smearing stools.

Brazelton and co-author Dr. Joshua Sparrow articulated seven clear “readiness” signs. He urged parents not to begin before all seven were present. Among the signs are the ability to say “no,” bowel regularity and bodily awareness.

Brazelton’s research launched child-initiated toilet training, which is now the dominant practice in the U.S. and much of the western world. However, his work contains several flaws. He claims that bed-wetting is caused by early toilet training. Ironically, in his own study, Brazelton found that a clear majority of bed wetters were toilet trained after age two. Also, Brazelton claims that children have no sphincter control until 18 months or older. Common sense tells us this is false – if babies had no sphincter control, they would leak urine constantly, rather than releasing when their bladders are full.

It’s worth noting that Brazelton has profited from his opinion, which has in turn fed the $25+ billion disposable diaper industry. In 1998, Brazelton starred in a Pampers commercial to launch a size 6 diaper — fitting children up to 70 lbs! Though each child is different, the average 70 pounder is 10 years old! Brazelton was also reportedly chairman of the Pampers Parenting Institute, and his book Touchpoints is recommended repeatedly on Pampers’ website.

Given the “determination” of their parents in the roaring 1920s, children were using the bathroom independently at 12 months. In the 1940s, the average shifted to 18 months. By the 1960s, the average age was two years. And now, in the 21st century, the average is over three years. One third of children are still in diapers after their third birthday.[ii] Yes, America is a very progressive nation. But as we’ve seen with many babycare trends, sometimes progress is, in fact, backwards.

In the meantime, several modern pioneers have launched a small but thriving movement to gently respond to baby’s pottying cues – a practice called Elimination Communication, or EC for short – in the U.S. and other western societies. In 1980, Laurie Boucke published the first “how-to” guide, a pamphlet which she has since expanded into a book, Infant Potty Training. In 2001, Ingrid Bauer published Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.

In 2004, the international organization DiaperFreeBaby was launched by Melinda Rothstein and Rachel Milgroom, two Boston moms passionate about educating and building community among ECing parents worldwide. A media blitz in the mid-2000s drew thousands of new ECers, who began forming local groups around the world to support each other. In 2007, author and DFB active member Christine Gross-Loh wrote the user-friendly EC guide, Diaper Free Baby.

Interested in learning how and why our babies were using the potty from birth, and out of diapers around their first birthday? Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s post for a more practical look at EC!

Do you practice EC? If not, what holds you back?

**************************************************************************

Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication, baby-led weaning, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year. The e-version is FREE from October 9-12!!

**************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

Make Your Own DIY Baby Changing Pad

There are so many expenses that come into our lives with a new baby. Lots of “must haves” too. But as we at The Other Baby Book have found, not all of these “must haves” are actually a must.

I’m going to give you the scoop on how I created my own baby changing pad with household items in about 5 minutes.

To answer the obvious question: why not just buy it?
1. It’s an unnecessary expense
2. It will take up precious space in your house between babies
3. It will take up precious space in our landfills once someone decides to retire it.
4. Flame retardants. That’s right, some Schmo thought that you might leave your roly poly baby on a diaper changing pad long enough to allow the flames to engulf it. Not only are these harmful for the environment, they’re also bad for us and our babies. So why even bother?

Here’s how I made mine, step by step:

1. Find a stack of old towels and/or blankets
2. Identify a waterproof layer (could be a waterproof crib sheet, a chux pad, or even a plastic garbage bag.
3. Top layer: if you have a changing pad cover, it’s a great, elasticized tool to hold the whole thing together. Otherwise, a soft blanket (flannel receiving blankets are ideal) will work.
4. Take your thickest layer and fold it to the height of a tall baby (2-3 feet tall). Leave the sides long.
5. Either fold or roll the sides in from both sides to create a raised layer on each side with a valley in the middle. The valley is where your baby will lie during changes.
6. Fold the remaining layers to match the height and width of your bottom layer. Stack them on top of each other.
7. Put the waterproof layer at the top of the pile. Fold it to match the size of the whole pad.
8. Put on your top layer. If you have more than one changing pad cover, just stack them on top of each other. If one gets soiled you can just pull it off and have a clean one underneath. Same goes for soft blankets, you could have anywhere from 1-3 on top of the pile.
9. I usually add a prefold diaper on top of the whole stack for extra protection, to minimize laundry needs.

Voila, you’re done!

A safety reminder – never leave your baby unattended on a baby changing pad that’s been placed on a high surface.

IMG_2497.JPG

IMG_2498.JPG

IMG_2502.JPG

9 Best Baby-Led Weaning First Foods

IMG_4125

One of my favorite practices during our first daughter’s first year was Baby-led Weaning, the practice of giving her autonomy over feeding herself solids. This means we didn’t go the rice cereal route (empty, yucky calories, and a time-consuming mess? no thanks!), but went straight to real, nutrient dense food. After filling her up on milk, we offer whatever food it is we’re eating (within reason – spicy chicken wings doesn’t make the cut) and let her explore, eat, or reject the offerings. Compared to many of our friends, who start their babies on food before six month, we started a bit later (7.5 months), waiting until our daughter hit the 6 month milestone when her gut was fully sealed, could sit up unsupported, and showed an interest.

I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I play one on tv, but I can tell you what we’ve found to be the most nutrient dense, easy to eat, and well-liked items in our home for those first few months of “playing” with food.

1. Egg yolk. This is a messy one, but SO loved. It was both girls’ first food. Sometimes we scramble a few yolks separately, or hard boil an egg and just pop out the circular yolk.

2. Avocado. If you leave a little piece of the (washed) skin on and cut it into a wedge, it’s a bit easier to eat.

3. Root vegetable fries. My girls have enjoyed beets, sweet potato, red potato, carrot, turnip – roasted and with a little butter or olive oil. In the other half of the pan, I’ll add seasonings to the portion for the rest of the family.

4. Fried apples. Cut into wedges for easy gripping, apple slices sautéed in butter or coconut oil are super yummy. It’s like apple sauce that babies can pick up.

5. Melons. My second daughter started food in the summer, and adored cantaloupe, watermelon and honey dew melon, cut into finger sized chunks.

6. Beef Sticks. We buy grass-fed beef sticks from US Wellness Meats and I live off them when I’m pregnant and nursing. Both girls really like them too! They suck on them and as they get a little older, are able to get some of the meat out.

7. Oranges. I didn’t like oranges until my second pregnancy, so we never kept them around the house. But after my second daughter was born, we always had a stash, and turns out she loves them! She sucks all the juice and leaves me an empty orange “shell”.

8. Hard cheese – Do you know that in Italy, a common first food for babies is parmesan cheese mixed with olive oil? I haven’t gone that far, but my girls enjoy sucking on a good quality cheddar or hunk of parmesan.

9. Whatever else we’re eating. I’ll take out pieces of vegetables from a stew, cucumbers from our salad, or banana from the oatmeal.

Mamas, baby-led weaning should be a fun, stress-free experience! Remember, breast-fed babies do not need anything aside from milk during their first year, so food should be a time for exploration, play, and first tastes! If you’d like more structure to your baby-led weaning experience, you may enjoy the cookbook, (review here) or the book, “Baby-led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods – and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater.” If I had to choose just one, I’d go with the cookbook! It’s all the info from the book, condensed, with recipes!

Want to learn more about other baby-friendly practices, like elimination communication (ditch the diapers!), nursing, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing? Check out our book, The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year.

****************************************************************************************************************************************************

Megan McGrory Massaro is a mother, freelance writer, and author. She wrote The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year  to empower women to make the best choices for their families.

How Praising Gives us the “Gimmes”

img_9891I’ve been on board with limiting praise for my kids ever since reading the compelling book Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn (affiliate link). I understood it in theory, I learned to apply it in parenting, and I was happy with my decision.

But I didn’t understand the internal impact of praise until recently.

The Back Story.

My good friend is a yoga teacher, and while she’s relatively new at it, she’s also a total rockstar who’s managed to pack her schedule with enough yoga classes to more than compensate for the corporate job she left behind.

Recently she received feedback on her teaching from the owner of one of the studios where she works. We sat down to process the feedback, which shook her confidence a bit.

One of the recommendations was to stop praising. Not that she does it very often. She asked for my thoughts on the matter.

As a coach, I know that praise moves us from a place of unlimited support to a place of judgement. By saying something is good or bad I limit my clients’ experience, so I’ve learned to leave praise out.

As a parent I also know that praise takes a child’s focus off of himself and directs it to praise-seeking activities.

But as a yoga practitioner? I actually enjoy having the occasional “good job” or “nice pose” thrown in there. It gives me a lift and makes me feel good.

I shared my feedback, and trusted my friend to process the issue on her own.

My Experience of Nonjudgment

At my friend’s next class (I attend one of her classes weekly whenever possible), I noticed that she didn’t praise. Not once. And I noticed a shift within myself. As I adjusted and knew not to expect the praise, my attention began to focus more on my internal experience of my yoga practice.

What I began to realize was that those “good jobs” gave me a momentary high, but it was the kind that fizzles on the next pose when I wonder why I’m not receiving more of them. Am I not as good at this one as I was at the earlier one? Is someone else better than me?

In the absence of praise I was able to understand the freedom of not being judged as good or bad. An authority person’s feedback, be they a teacher or parent, has a gravitational draw that brings our attention out of our own experience and focuses it on their assessment of us. The ego then kicks into high gear, measuring us and comparing us to others. In yoga that type of thinking is precisely beside the point. It’s taken me years of practice to learn to keep my eyes on my own mat. But in the process of eliminating praise, my friend helped me bring my full attention to my own experience.

The Implications

By focusing on my own experience I suddenly am liberated to be present with my practice, noticing any tension or emotions arising that need my attention. I  am freed by being in the present moment by feeling connected to everything that is happening, in exactly the moment in which it happens.

By stepping into my ego, which I know experientially know is activated by praise, I step into a state of lack, of wanting or needing attention in order to be okay. This is what I call the “gimmes.” That place where you think you need stuff in order to be okay, be it praise or things. This gimme state just feeds on itself, creating a gimme monster.  I don’t want to disservice my children by shifting them into this mindset of lack.

I stand by the advice we included in the Relate chapter of The Other Baby Book. Limit your praise, and free your children.

***********************************************************************
Miriam KatzMiriam J. Katz is co-author of The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year, where you can find a guide to safe co-sleeping and other fun tools. Miriam is an intuitive life coach whose passion is to help others overcome internal blocks to living their life purpose. She lives in Boston with her husband and two children.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,995 other followers

%d bloggers like this: