Time to Get Your “Big Latch On” On!

World Breastfeeding Week is almost here!  August 1 – 7, 2012 marks twenty years since the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action introduced this week-long call to global advocacy for breastfeeding education and support. There are abundant global, regional, and local events planned to honor and promote this world health initiative, but there is one local community level event I am particularly stoked about: The Big Latch On.

Breastfeeding mamas from over 11 different countries and 218 locations are gathering together on either August 3 or 4 (depending on your location) this summer to rock some serious NIP (nursing in public) and hopefully break a world record for most women breastfeeding simultaneously while we’re at it.  I enthusiastically signed up for the St. Louis The Big Latch On event, which is actually being held in my ‘hood this year.

The Big Latch On describes its aims this way*:

  • Support for communities to identify and grow opportunities to provide ongoing breastfeeding support and promotion.
  • Raise awareness of breastfeeding support and knowledge available in communities.
  • Help communities positively support breastfeeding in public places.
  • Make breastfeeding a normal part of the day-to-day life at a local community level.
  • Increase support for women who breastfeed – women are supported by their partners, family and the breastfeeding knowledge that is embedded in their communities.
  • Communities have the resources to advocate for coordinated appropriate and accessible breastfeeding support services.

I mean, who can’t get behind that? You can find your local event location here. Don’t see an event listed in your area? You can host one! The Other Baby Book’s own resident breastfeeding badass, erm, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Molly deGroh, is hosting one in her area. Pretty nifty, right?

I would love to know how many of friends of TOBB are planning to attend their own local latch-fest.  Molly and I both plan to take pictures and share our experiences here on the blog, and we’d love it if you’d join us! We’d love to hear about your experiences and even share some of your pictures in the blog space, if you’re open to that. We’ll send out a call for your stories and pictures on Facebook after the event!

Will you be there? Ever attended The Big Latch On in the past? Tell us about it!

Follow The Big Latch On on Facebook here. Follow World Breastfeeding Week on Facebook here.

*Information copied directly from The Big Latch On website.

Breastfeeding totally handed Rhianna her ass that first month, but she and her 18mo son are still nursing strong. She thanks the stars for the breastfeeding badasses, erm, lactation consultants, who gave her the strength and hope to keep latchin’ on.

How Important is Time Away from Your Child?

As our toddlers played together at the train table in our neighborhood’s coffee shop, another mother and I were talking about summer vacation plans. She was sharing details about a spectacular 10-day  vacation she and her husband took to a resort in Central America last fall. Instantly, my daydreams ferried me to the shade of swaying palms, where I sat on a picnic blanket sharing sweet drinks made from local fruit with my husband and our tyke, adorably clad in a bucket sunhat and buttered up with sunblock.  My husband and I traveled a good amount before we welcomed our son into our lives, and we often talk about what kind of trips we want to take with him when he’s old enough to have fun memories of family travel.

Photo credit: mmsea (Flickr Creative Commons)

I turned to my coffee-swigging mama acquaintance and replied, “I love your sense of adventure–packing up your little one and trekking out of the country like that!” Questions about the logistics of international travel were bubbling up in my brain–infant passport? lengthy air travel? vaccines?–but before I could ask, she responded, “Oh, we didn’t take her. She stayed with grandma.”

Wait, whaaaa?  I quickly did the math, realizing that her daughter was 9 or 10 months old at the time of her parents’ tropical trek out of the country.   Ten whole days? Outside of the country? Without their babe? But…why? How?  I hoped my face belied my shock and confusion. I thought back to my son at that age. In the span of a week around that stage, my son took his first steps. He was nursing every 3 hours or so.  I couldn’t imagine being away from him for one night at that age, let alone a solid week and a half. My chest tightened at the thought. The mama went on to say that it was, indeed, a bit hard being away from her daughter at first, but she and her husband relaxed into their vacation and had a stellar time. Her daughter had a great time bonding with grandma, too, she said, adding with a laugh that her daughter didn’t want to leave grandma’s  when it was time to come home.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my son in the care of someone else while my husband and I went out. Our friends’ rehearsal dinner; a fancy dinner out and a movie as an early wedding anniversary celebration; and just this past weekend when my husband and I went out to see a late movie. Sprinkled amongst these big events and date nights are the random long solo walks for coffee or a child-free errand jaunt, but seldom has it been, in these almost 18 months, that we’ve gone out without our son.

I’m not judging, complaining or glorifying. It’s what it is: we simply do not feel the need to go out often without him. We’ve never felt the desire to travel without him (in fact, we’d hate that). The first ten years of our marriage were filled with travel (domestic and international), parties with friends,  expensive meals out, and regular concerts and shows. We enjoyed our share of excess. We waited a long time to become parents, and, right now, we simply want to just be with our son.

We have felt pressure from others, though: You guys should go out more! You need time to yourselves!  Don’t feel guilty for going out without him! You’re more than parents, you know! It’s healthy and necessary for your child to develop relationships with other adults!  It’s good for your child to see that you have a social life! The implications and undertones of these kind of statements are irritating at best. We’re not helicoptering. We’re not sheltering. We’re not excluding other adults from our son’s life. Dudes, we just like the company of our kid.  Sue us.

When I do go out, I don’t feel guilty for going out without my kid. But, sometimes, other people make me feel guilty for NOT wanting to go out more without him.  Am I somehow neglecting a part of myself or my marriage by not going out more? I do wonder, but I always come to the same conclusion: nope.

A couple of weekends ago, after I had a particularly trying week at home with my toddler,  my husband took him to a festival in the park, and I took a long shower by myself, blow-dried my hair (a very rare occurrence in my motherhood), put on a cute skirt, grabbed the just-delivered issue of Food & Wine, walked to our other neighborhood coffee shop (the one without a kids’ area), ordered a very large iced Americano, propped my feet up on the shady patio, and read my magazine cover to cover. It was a glorious couple of hours, just what I needed to recharge.

It was enough for me.

What about you?  How often do you spend time away from your child? Would you ever go/have you ever gone on a long vacation without your little one? Has anyone ever made you feel guilty for spending too little or too much time away?

One of Rhianna’s all-time fave vacations was a road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway with her husband. She gets lost in daydreams about making the same trip with little ones buckled in the backseat. She faithfully renews her subscription to Budget Travel magazine every year.

It’s Easy Being Green with Your Toddler

If your toddler is anything like mine, he turns nearly every foray into the great outdoors into a goose turd and cigarette butt scavenger hunt.  My 17mo has sharply-honed radar and eagle-like visual acuity for garbage. Y’all, it’s impressive.  His curiosity and affection for litter is, I believe, rivaled only by a certain trashcan-inhabiting muppet’s. Not too long ago, my son eagerly pawed a piece of trash at the park, and I habitually offered my usual response, “Ooooh, yucky. Please don’t pick up that trash.”  But for some reason, at that particular moment, I gulped, wide-eyed, at a sudden realization: Am I inadvertently teaching my son that litter belongs on the ground? That it’s okay to toss trash in the park? Littering sucks!

From that point on, whenever he palmed a bit of garbage I offered a different response, “Ooooh, yucky. Let’s go put that in the trash can.” I have to admit that I am still squeamish about his trash handling. I mean, I want to encourage him to responsibly dispose of trash, but at the same time I don’t want to encourage him to pick up really questionable items.  I try to scan around for those kinds of items now with the hopes of beating my rubbish-loving half-pint to the nearest receptacle. Three cheers and cartwheels for hand sanitizer!

There are so many ways to be green with your little one. Yep, there are lots of practices that many of us have adopted with an eco-friendly aim: breastfeeding, using cloth diapers/cloth wipes/elimination communication, purchasing natural/organic/sustainably produced baby and household products, buying or borrowing second-hand clothing and toys, etc. These practices are laudable and awesome, no doubt, but I want to discuss things we can do with our tots, practices that actively engage them in green living and stoke their sense of stewardship for the Earth and its creatures.

Litter pick-up is one effective and free (and, heck yeah, disgusting) way to instill a bit of eco-consciousness in our tykes. These are some of the other things we do in our family with that green goal in mind:

  • We grow stuff together! I planted flowers, herbs, and vegetables with my son this spring. (I welcome dirty hands of that variety any ol’ time.) I also let him pick out the flowers for our front-porch container gardens.
  • We water our plants together every day. And, instead of buying a watering can (made out of who-only-knows-what), we made our own by reusing items we already had on hand. (Inspired by this kick-ass pin.)
  • We feed little creatures together. We have several bird feeders and have even set up a few small squirrel feeders. We spend time watching the birds and squirrels together.
  • We visit nature nature conservation centers and animal sanctuaries.
  • We visit and support our neighborhood’s weekly farmer’s market. Can my toddler understand the value of giving money directly to the person who collected the eggs/picked the veggies/harvested the honey we’re purchasing? Of course not. But he sees this nourishment just one step removed from its origin, in all its freshness and vibrant color.
  • We recycle together. Several times each week we walk out to the giant steel recycling receptacle in our street’s back alley and take turns tossing in our recyclables.
  • We play outside. Almost every day.
  • We walk. To the library. To the coffee shop. To the park. To the gelateria. To the grocery store. And on our walks we pick and smell flowers; we feel the textures of different leaves and compare their colors.

These are small, inexpensive, yet meaningful practices. We’re far from perfect.  But we hope that by enfolding our son in the practices bulleted above, by modeling an active appreciation for the natural world, by making du jour these acts of kindness and respect,  we’re creating a lush springboard for our son’s eco-consciousness.

Tell us how you are green with your little ones!

Rhianna is off to take her toddler on his post-dinner, pre-bedtime walk through the park, where she hopes to successfully steer him far from goose turds. Seriously, what is with toddlers and goose poop? Somebody, explain it to her.

Social Work Primed Me to be an Attached, Gentle Parent

I have a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree concentrated in clinical social work. When I walked across the stage in 2010 to be hooded for my MSW, snug in my uterus was the 8-week old embryonic version of the toddler who is, at this exact moment, sprawled next to me in bed, face blissfully soft with slumber.  I was clueless then just how significantly my education and career would color how I parent him.

I often say that I came to gentle, attached parenting through the back door; I ardently embraced some of its tenets long before I was ever a parent, long before I even knew there were these things called “attachment parenting” or “gentle discipline.” From the moment I saw those two pink lines on my pregnancy test, my parenting approach has been very much informed by my life as a social worker.

I  spent the 12 years preceding my son’s birth working at first in the domestic violence arena,  then in the protective services world, and, finally, in a hospital setting. When I hear or read people portraying attachment parenting as “extreme,” when I hear its practices (such as nursing beyond infancy and sharing sleep) depicted as “abuse” or “neglect,” I get downright pissed off. Because in my time as a social worker, I have been horrified by truly extreme parenting. I have cradled true neglect in my arms. I have testified against true abuse in court. There is nothing extreme, abusive, or remotely neglectful about nurturing secure attachment in your child. And people who posture otherwise need a dramatic expansion of their worldview.

Along with its extensive Code of Ethics, very specific values and principles undergird social work practice. I found that this undercurrent of values and practices naturally and effortlessly flowed into my parenting; below I’ve slightly modified some of these social work values and practices to show how they inform my parenting, swapping in the word “child” for the word “client.”

  • My child has inherent worth, dignity and strengths: My child is unconditionally worthy of my respect, and that respect is the centerpoint of my parenting. My actions as a parent are designed to nurture my son’s sense of worth and safeguard his dignity. I do not view him through a lens of deficit (what he cannot do), but rather from a perspective that acknowledges his strengths.
  • I begin where my child is: For me, this means I recognize that my child has unique needs, and these needs might vary from month to month,  day to day, even hour to hour. For example, my toddler has never slept through the night.  I remind myself that he is waking for a need, that this is simply where he “is” right now. I could  measure him against other children who were sleeping through the night significantly earlier, frustratedly and desperately wondering why he can’t string together a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Instead, I try to remind that this is where he “is” developmentally. Sleep is a developmental milestone like any other, and he will achieve it at his own pace.
  • I respond to my child with empathy. I’m sure you’ve seen this compelling statement before: My child isn’t giving me a hard time, he’s having a hard time.  This view is grounded in empathy. Very little is as powerful as the feeling of being understood. When I respond with empathy to my child–to a hurt, to a behavior I’d like to curb, to a tantrum–I am not only acknowledging and reflecting his emotions, I am also helping to gently and naturally cultivate his own sense of empathy. I am modeling an effective, compassionate way to navigate interpersonal dynamics.
  • I respect my child’s right self-determination and autonomy. Within carefully constructed limits, obviously. A toddler’s favorite word? “No,” right? And that’s because he’s taking his autonomy for a test-drive and learning to assert himself. Engaging my child’s choice-making–however simple it may seem–fosters feelings of empowerment, stokes feelings of competence, and honors his voice. It can be this simple: “Would you like strawberries or bananas with your breakfast?” or “Would you like to put that lotion back in the cabinet, or would you like me to help you put the lotion back in the cabinet?”
  • The human relationship is…everything. The relationship I am nurturing with my son is, essentially, the blueprint for his future relationships. This is  the crux of attachment parenting, isn’t it?

And, of course, social work education is also chock full of other worthy, parenting-applicable insight, such as the stages of human and growth and development and theories surrounding attachment, family functioning, and the like.

I chose social work more than a decade ago out of passion for social justice and advocacy, and I full-heartedly feel it has made me a kinder, gentler, and saner parent than I would have been otherwise.

Rhianna returned to her social work career after the birth of her son…and lasted a whole three days before submitting her letter of resignation. She’s been a stay-home mama ever since, way more fulfilled in her role as mother than she ever was in her role as social worker. And that’s saying a lot.

Child Spacing: What is Optimal?

The subject of family building can be an intimate, sometimes complex one. There is much to consider:  the how (especially for those contending with a history of infertility and/or pregnancy loss); the how many; and the how far apart. The how far apart has been on my mind lately, specifically as it relates to how sibling spacing might affect my health or the attachment my husband and I have been nurturing with our toddler.

I seem to recall stumbling across, at some point whilst poring through parenting lit during my pregnancy,  the recommendation for a sibling interval of 3 years. But couldn’t remember where I read this, nor why 3 years was supposedly so optimal. So, I set out recently to unearth the source and the support for this recommended interval.

I could not find any solid info on this supposedly ideal 3 year birth spacing or how it specifically relates to health or to attachment. In fact, I never really discovered a magic number. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that it is not really that simple. For some families, a subsequent pregnancy happens unexpectedly. For other families there is pointed pressure to begin attempting to further grow their family as soon as possible. As we all know, “ideal” can be tricky to define. And there is much that is outside of our control.

In exploring the health implications of birth spacing, I found recommended figures all over the place: 12 months or greater; 2 years; 3-5 years. But I found this research limited in its personal applicability and insight. Some researchers failed to control for behavioral risk factors such as smoking, substance abuse, and poverty, each of which can contribute to poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. Other research was conducted in developing nations with profound maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality rates.  Not exactly apples to apples, you know?

I didn’t really find any prescriptive birth spacing for optimal attachment either. None of the research I read felt exactly relevant to my family’s circumstances.  This Strollerderby post was an interesting take on the benefits of birth spacing. I found this post at the Attached Family to be an especially thoughtful take on sibling spacing and its effects on family dynamic, too. This Q&A also presented helpful considerations.

After all of my searching and contemplating, the real takeaway nugget of insight for me is this: my family, our needs, and our lifestyle are unique.Who knows our son better than my husband and me? Who knows our patience, energy levels, support system and financial wellness better than us?  We know our ourselves better than any researcher, better than any kind of attachment theory. Eventually we will know when our family is ready to add to the pack, and when that time arrives we will create our own “ideal.”

What do you consider ideal sibling spacing to be? How far apart are your children? You and your siblings? How has this affected your relationship with your parents and siblings?

photo credit: goldberg, Flickr Creative Commons

Rhianna is currently living her ideal in St. Louis with her handsome mate and their exuberant 17 month old son, whose current favorite library book is titled ‘Me & My Sister.’  After reading it, oh, about one hundred times in the last three days, they’re starting to wonder if he’s trying to tell them something.

Play, the Natural Family Way

The value and significance of childhood play has been broadly documented. Once believed to be an activity of indulgence, play is now understood to be a vital component of a healthful childhood and a springboard for adaptive and positive functioning in adulthood. It promotes emotional and cognitive development, cultivates social skills such as conflict resolution and cooperation, and stokes creativity. In my social work education and career, I have even studied and observed the brilliant, skilled use of play as a means of therapy for children. Play is powerful stuff!

I’ve learned in my relatively short parenthood journey that it is ridiculously easy to get pulled in by the promise of “educational” toys, music, and DVDs. Our love and dedication as parents makes us vulnerable; we lovingly want to give our babes every possible advantage towards becoming well-thought, kind, creatures. Studies have revealed, though, that those blinging, singing educational toys actually fail to deliver on their marketed promises. And others now recognize what we as attached parents have always understood: the best, most influential toy your child can have is  you.

We’ve tried hard to stem the surge of those kinds of toys into our home. We don’t buy them. Usually these toys have been given us to as thoughtful, well-intentioned gifts, and we’re grateful that someone cares enough to think of our son in this way. We pull those toys out as a matter of exception, usually for specific circumstances (like, for example, a long road trip), and as we rotate one in we rotate another out.

We’ve visited the homes of friends where shelves bulge and erupt with toys, where even I feel a bit overstimulated by the bounty of bright, loud, plastic playthings. In our home we’ve deliberately chosen to limit not just the types of toys, but also the amount of toys present. I especially love this perspective on why having fewer toys actually benefits your children. (Really, if you click on only one link from this post, make it this one. It’s an insightful read. And if you are interested in ways to cull your current toy stockpile, here are some pointers.)

We focus, instead, on time spent and activities enjoyed together as a family. Play is darn fun and can serve to expend our little ones’ bottomless energy, but it can also be a delightfully effective way to enrich attachment. And, you know what? These kinds of activities are often free or awesomely inexpensive–just one more example of how natural parents are richer.

Taking walks is a huge hit for us right now. We live just blocks away from a sprawling park with towering old trees, winding walking paths, and a safe playground. We collect leaves, smell flowers, pet moss on tree trunks, wave to robins and count squirrels. We take our shoes off and kick balls in the grass. Nature is free and wild, and little ones benefit from time spent outdoors with their caregivers.

Looking for other ideas for easy, mostly inexpensive ways to play with your toddler? Here are some fun ideas. Or perhaps other nifty ways to get your nature on with your half-pint? Here is a good place to start.

What kinds of toys does your child dig the most? What kind of activities do you enjoy doing with your kiddos? Have any favorite resources for natural play?

Best play space Rhianna ever made for her 17-month-old son? Dedicating a whole kitchen cabinet to him and filling it with random inexpensive kitchen related items like egg cartons, empty spice containers, herbal tea boxes, wooden spoons, and play food. She lives in St. Louis and spends a good deal of time in Tower Grove Park, where her toddler enthusiastically gifts her with sweetgum balls, chunks of mulch, pebbles, and beheaded flowers.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

Attachment Parenting in the Time of Zombies

I’ve got zombies on the brain, y’all. I don’t mean the I-Nursed-Mah-Behbeh-Seemingly-Every-Hour-Last-Night-and-I-Need-Coffee-STAT brand of zombie. (Although I extend  an empathetic embrace to those mamas. Hang in there, fellow Mombies. You’re doing an awesome job!) Rather, I mean the I-Am-an-Ambulating-Putrid-Corpse-and-I-Want-to-Eat-Your-Behbeh brand of zombie.  After getting hooked on The Walking Dead television series this past season, I recently and eagerly pored through the first five books of the graphic novel series upon which the show is based. I have never ever read a graphic novel before, nor have I ever been a fan of zombie flicks or lit, but somehow I got sucked into the creepy vortex of the shuffling, decomposing undead.

Babywearing, mombie and zombling style.

**(Fair warning: there are mild spoilers about both the show and graphic novels in the following. If you care about that kind of thing, it might be a good idea to stop reading. )**

In the graphic novel, one of the characters gives birth to a healthy baby. As I was tensely reading that particular chapter, it hit me like a shovel through the brain that there is a place for natural, gentle, attached parenting in the zombie apocalypse.

There are no functioning hospitals in the zombie apocalypse, which means…you can can finally have the home birth and birth bonding you always wanted without interference from your family, friends, doctor, or health insurance company! You will meet your tender wombling for the first time in the comfort of your own home! Or in whichever uninfested home you’ve been forced to squat!

No epidural? No problem! Since you can still feel and move your legs, you can kick that attacking zombie in his rotting chest! You’re all jacked up on birthing adrenaline and endorphins–who else wants a piece of your birth-empowered ass?

Mama’s milk is free and won’t require a risky mission to that neighborhood grocery store overrun with creepy cannibal corpses. And who couldn’t use repeated hits of oxytocin and prolactin–those lovey, warm, relaxing hormones induced by nursing–in the terrifying times of zombie apocalypse? Nature’s own anti-anxiety drugs!

By the time you start thinking about introducing solid foods, those grocery stores will have probably been looted down to their last tic-tac. Baby-led weaning it is!

And you know what else? Media empires will have fallen, so you can put those mammaries to “extended” use without fear that a major news magazine will distort your parenting ethic with a provocative cover photo! You’ll be too busy fighting the zombie world war to worry about reloading for the mommy wars anyway.

Sharing sleep in the zombie apocalypse? Don’t mind if I DO. You’ll sleep more soundly knowing that you can protect your wee one and respond to any of his needs quickly and quietly. Prolonged crying would be tantamount to ringing a dinner bell for the undead–an “extinction method,” for sure.

And babywearing? Yes, please. Grab a bed sheet, tie that sucker on, and tuck your half-pint in close to you, and voila: your baby is content and comforted in an uncertain time. And it also frees up both of your hands for zombie slaying, natch.

It just might be, friends, that the key to surviving World War Z is the Baby B’s. What do you think?

Rhianna hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in nearly a year and a half, which, by her estimation, makes her at least half-zombie. She credits her husband for getting her hooked on The Walking Dead and her 16-month-old son for making her feel like the walking dead. Enormous thanks to her friend, Amber, for the zombie-fied picture above.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

Prowling for a Pediatrician

A good pediatrician is hard to find. Wait–let me to rephrase that: An open-minded, measured, respectful and empowering pediatrician is hard to find.

My son was born in the hospital at which I worked at that time, and I was incredibly fortunate to work in an environment that gave me direct insight into the community-based pediatrics scene. Over time I was able to winnow the catalog of available pediatricians to those I suspected could fill my apparently very tall order, and I was fortunate again when I was able to get into my first-choice pediatrician’s office.  Later I would realize just how lucky I truly was.

She was warm and gentle towards my baby. She was supportive of breastfeeding, and as I struggled discouragingly with a nipple shield, she offered bolstering words. She encouraged babywearing. She spoke to my husband and me in respectful and empathetic tones, always conveying a vibe of appreciation for our concerns.  She was patient with my many questions, provided answers based on recent research, and articulated these answers in a way that didn’t undermine me or my parenting preferences.

We didn’t always agree. When I came to her with a copy of Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book in hand and posed questions about vaccines, she didn’t overreact or patronize. She did respectfully articulate her perspective on specific vaccines and her objections to some of Dr. Sears’ assertions. She many not have whole-heartedly agreed with my approach, but she was receptive to exploring my expectations with me. Together we constructed a staggered and delayed immunization schedule.

Within the year my husband’s new employment moved us out of state to a small community, and I had limited leads on pediatrician candidates. My first choice pediatrician in the new town was no longer accepting new patients, and I was instead shuffled into the patient list of one of her partners. I  cannot overstate what a very poor fit this turned out to be.

Our new pediatrician admonished me for night nursing. She explicitly (and erroneously) instructed me to discontinue this practice because it promoted tooth decay. She asked if my son was sleeping through the night in his crib, and when I told her that he had never slept through the night, her eyebrows hiked in an overt expression of surprise. I didn’t bother sharing about our bedsharing experience.

When I tried to discuss my preference to delay the chicken pox vaccine, she immediately launched into a fear-mongering tale about a child who endured a lengthy hospitalization due to chicken pox. There was no discussion, only belittling and bullying. I could have articulated thoughtful, measured intelligent explanations for all of my parenting preferences, but it felt pointless. I left the office in tears.

My husband recently accepted a new position within his company, necessitating another move to a new, bigger, more diverse city. With relief, I am on the prowl for a pediatrician again. I was stoked to find an Attachment Parenting group in my new hometown, and I’ve inquired there about pediatrician suggestions. I am hopeful that we’ll find one who, at the very least, respects the way attached families roll, and at the absolute best, embraces and celebrates it as much as I do.

What has been your pediatrician experience? How did you find your pediatrician? How have you handled disagreement with your pediatrician?

Rhianna lives in St. Louis with her equally adorable husband and 16 month old son. This past holiday she sent their former pediatrician a holiday card and scribbled in a post script that their latest pediatrician seriously sucked in comparison. She nominates Dr. James McKenna to be the new McDreamy.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

Bedsharing Bliss

My son has never spent the night in his crib.  We are Family Bed peeps. Bed-sharers by choice. This was not necessarily by design, but was also not by default. I knew I wanted to bed closely to my baby, and I had imagined that he’d have a temporary layover in our bedroom before he transitioned to his crib in a neighboring bedroom. I was clueless about how powerful the drive would to keep him close to me at night.

Our first few nights home from the hospital were rough. I simply couldn’t sleep, even with Arlo nearby in his co-sleeper. He seemed so far away, so defenseless. Was he breathing? Was he warm? Was he lonely?  Within days I ordered one of those little in-bed co-sleepers, and that’s where Arlo slept, right between my husband and me, for the next three months. Most nights I slept with either my face nuzzled against the mesh walls of the co-sleeper, or with my hand on Arlo’s chest, or both. When he outgrew the co-sleeper he began sleeping directly in the bed with us.

Perhaps this inability to sleep away from my baby sounds batty. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to others why we feel so strongly about bedsharing.  There were times when we felt the pressure by others to coach our baby towards independent sleep. We’d place Arlo in his crib in his nursery, which felt miles away. When he’d stir for a feeding, I would bound down the hall, scoop him up, and bring him back into the bed with me. He’d melt into a dream feed, and I’d exhale in a regained sense of wholeness. My family, all right within an arm’s comforting reach again.

The truth is that I love having Arlo in the bed with us. The truth is that it feels instinctual. It feels right to us.

I love listening to his breathfalls, and when I awake in the dark, the sound of his breath is the sound I reflexively zero in on above the concert of other nighttime noises–my husband’s breathing/snoring, the traffic on the street, the wind through the trees outside, the furnace, the dog slobbering on his junk at the foot of the bed.  I love the envelope of balmy warmth from our three bodies under the covers. I love that when I sleep on my side, Arlo almost instinctively gravitates to that little half-moon of my body. It’s as though he knows that this space is his, as though he remembers that this is the space where he used to live.  We are corresponding shapes in our sleep, and when he is nuzzled there, and his little knees and plump fists are pressing into my torso, it recalls somewhat similar sensations from my pregnancy.

I was reading a book in bed one night, and Arlo was sleeping on his back between my husband and me.  Arlo shifted slightly from his back to his side, and by the light of my booklight I watched as he stretched an arm out and tenderly crooked it around my husband’s neck. My husband cozied into Arlo’s one-armed embrace, neither of them waking. Had I not been awake and reading I would never have witnessed this sweet scene, and I wondered how many times we unconsciously give this kind of comfort to each other during the night. I’d wager that it happens a lot. Perhaps it goes unwitnessed, but I do not think it goes unfelt.

I love waking up to a happy baby. I love that when Arlo wakes, he instantly pushes himself up to sitting, locates his mama and daddy, and then buries his head into one of us in a sort of armless good morning hug. Arlo wakes for the day so early now, so seldom is it that I get to see his face anymore as he wakes on these still-dark mornings. But when he was smaller and the sun was up before he was, I would lay next to him and watch him until he woke. There is something profoundly disarming and wildly touching about the look on your baby’s face when he first sees you as he wakes. It’s the kind of sweetness that makes the walls of your heart feel like they just might collapse.

Honor your parenting instincts. Disregard the uninformed and judgemental commentary from others. You are an expert on your baby. When people say things like this, bravely counter them with this and this empirically demonstrated research. Explain that you can, indeed, safely bed in close proximity to your kid. Please don’t allow the ignorant pressure of others to compromise the undiluted comfort both you and your little one feel when you share sleep.

Rhianna just moved her bed to St. Louis this weekend, and she looks forward to many more mornings of waking up with a younger man in her bed. She will admit that she has woken up to her fair share of surprise warm wet spots courtesy of said younger man. You can follow their out-of-bed shenanigans at her blog, A Brave New Garden.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!

The Impact of Infertility on Breastfeeding Hopes

There is much I hold sacred in this relatively short time of my motherhood: the first sight of my son’s peaceful, newly born face after grinding back labor and two hours of pushing; the smell of his freshly bathed skin; the cozy warmth of wearing his body close to my full heart; the dreaminess of a mid-night waking to find his arms delicately encircling my neck. But the most hallowed experience for me, hands down (bra flaps down?), has been breastfeeding.

I’ve written before about the reverence I have for my breastfeeding relationship with my 16 month old son. I love when he falls asleep contented by my breast. When the corner of his mouth cheekily upturns in a grin  as he suckles, I turn to goo. I can think of nothing more pure and wholly perfect than the act of sustaining him with milk from my own body. I hope to nurse him until he no longer desires to nurse, and I hope his eventual weaning is a gentle one.

I have come to understand that extended breastfeeding, though, is a luxury for some of us. Saying farewell to this tender, nourishing act is particularly painful when it’s prompted by infertility. Infertility can hijack a breastfeeding relationship and a nursing mama’s goals in heart-aching ways. Even when she deeply feels that the breast is best, she may not be in the place to fully honor this objective.

Some breastfeeding mothers contending with infertility find themselves staring down an impossibly heavy ultimatum: Should I reach for my extended breastfeeding goal or my family building goal? These mothers grapple with bringing their breastfeeding relationship to heavy-hearted closure in order to induce the return of their menstrual cycles and/or so they may pursue necessary fertility treatments.  When your journey to motherhood was a gauntlet of repeated failed cycles, invasive and expensive and painful medical procedures and/or recurrent pregnancy loss, you do not take for granted your ability to provide a sibling for your nursling.  Mothers confronted with diminished ovarian reserve or advanced maternal age can feel especially intense pressure to resume trying to conceive another baby as soon as possible.

For other infertile nursing mamas, it has everything to do with supply. No matter how committed you are to breastfeeding, no matter how much you treasure that bond with your baby, nursing is simply done when the milk is gone.

I talked this week with an infertile mama, Courtney, who described with dread her plan to wean her son by his first birthday in June in order to resume fertility treatments. She had considered resuming treatments sooner, but felt compelled to continue nursing until her son’s first birthday. She relates, “I NEVER planned to nurse this long, but I really enjoy it, and just the thought of stopping can put me in tears at times.” She has about 2-3 months worth of frozen expressed breast milk for him, but adds, “… it’s still going to be very hard for me to wean my little guy.  It breaks my heart, but we really want him to have a sibling ASAP, so this is one sacrifice we’re willing to make to make that happen for him.”

Infertile mama Becky is weaning her 19 month old son, too, but not because she’s trying to further build her family. She’s running out of milk. Becky and her husband pursued adoption to grow their family.  She induced lactation with Domperidone and has been supplementing with donated milk delivered via SNS. The milk she is making is decreasing in supply, and though she’s requested additional donor milk, she doesn’t feel hopeful that it will be filled.  Becky, an attachment parenter and baby-lead weaner, is very committed to breastfeeding, and this circumstantially forced weaning has been intensely emotional  for her. It reminds her, she says, that infertility is always there, and that this is just another way her body has let her down.

Mama’s milk is precious stuff, y’all–precious to our babies, and it’s precious to our fellow breastfeeding mamas who have to make these unenviable, difficult choices for their families. In this week that we recognize infertility as a medical condition that disrupts and derails the dreams of parenthood for 1 in 8 couples, let us also honor the meaningful breastfeeding relationships that have reached a tearful conclusion because of this disease.

This post was written in recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week, an event created by Resolve, the national infertility association. Over 100 other bloggers have written touching and insightful posts about infertility as part of this event. You can read them all here.

Rhianna typed portions of this post while nursing her wiggly toddler to sleep. Last April she visited Capitol Hill with Resolve and met with members of Congress and their aides to advocate for increased accessibility to vital medical treatments and increased federally appropriated research aimed at preventing and treating infertility.


Did you know The Other Baby Book: A Natural Approach to Baby’s First Year is now for sale? Are you interested in learning more about gentle, mom and baby-friendly practices that foster a joyful, connected relationship? Want to introduce a pregnant friend to natural parenting? Check out our website or head over to Amazon to grab your copy today!