Category Archives: Care

3 steps to trim your baby’s bangs in 2 minutes or less

I’ve seen some moms struggling to get straight lines when cutting their babies or toddler’s bangs. Often they give up and go to the salon.

I’m all about easy, cheap and getting good results. So I’ll share this fabulous trick to get the perfect face-framing bangs, every time. I used to use this technique on my own bangs, and now it saves us a lot of time, money and hassle.

Dalia haircut 2

Step 1: Pull the hair you don’t want to cut back into a ponytail, or secure with a headband. The remaining hairline should be an approximate semicircle, from ear to ear.

Step 2: Pinch the bangs into a point at the center of the forehead, between the eyebrows.

Dalia haircut 1

Step 3: Cut the bangs. They will be arranged in a small circular clump, like a bouquet of flowers.

Voila! Release, brush forward and take a keepsake photo. Seriously, it’s that easy.

bangs!

 

5 Tips to Soothe Teething Gums, Naturally

Once the intensity of a baby’s “fourth trimester” has passed, teething’s right around the corner. Sadly, teething doesn’t necessarily mean a tooth will appear and the pain will go away. Some babies deal with teething pain for months – or years – as their chompers come in. Since teething pain can be so frequent, it’s best not to lean on OTC pain-killers like acetaminophen, which can adversely affect a baby’s sensitive system if overused. Also, many conventionally-made teething medications contain benzocaine, a formula used to numb the membranes of the gums. The FDA has alerted the general public about rare but potentially fatal adverse reactions to benzocaine, but hasn’t banned the drug. Be sure to check the ingredients of teething remedies, as they often include this dangerous drug.

Watching your baby suffer helplessly isn’t a great option for most of us. Luckily, there are many other great tools in our toolbelts. Here are some of The Other Baby Book‘s favorites:

1. Chill out. Recent guidelines advise against putting items in the freezer for more than a few minutes, as they may cause frostbite or damage gum tissues. So pop teething rings and the like in the fridge to soothe the baby’s mouth.

2. Eat your veggies. Food items like cold cucumbers, pineapple cores, or lightly frozen grape bites make for great teethers. Also, damp washcloths can be chilled, then given to babies to suck and chew on.

3. Chew toys. If buying teething rings, consider wood made with nontoxic finishes like beeswax. Silicone is another healthy option.

4. Amber teething necklaces. Baltic amber is a natural analgesic that has been used to treat pain for hundreds of years. Made from petrified sap, it releases oils that contain trace amounts of succinic acid as it heats up. These necklaces are often purchased by moms who practice homeopathy. Look for Baltic amber with light color (like honey) for more healing succinic acid. Beads should be individually knotted so a baby doesn’t ingest them all if the necklace breaks. Clasps that come apart when tugged are most baby-friendly.

5. Homeopathic remedies. Teething gels and tablets made from natural ingredients can be purchased in your local health food store or online. These can provide temporary relief from teething symptoms. A popular remedy is Chamomilla, which is prescribed for irritable, teething babies. A homeopath can help you find your baby’s best remedy!

Good luck! And remember, this too shall pass!

Q&A: The All Night Nurser

Q: Lily  just turned 8 months, and is still up several times during the night to comfort nurse (I think).  I am not great at letting her cry, so I just end up letting her use me as a pacifier, so I don’t really get much sleep.  I am used to it, but I am sure I would be better off with some extended sleep one of these days! Do you have any advice about how I can help her sleep on her own — I have been trying to up her solids during the day, but she is more interested in nursing still.
A, Mom of 2 boys, 1 girl
A:  Hi A!  I am so psyched that yours is my first question!
Firstly, hooray for breastfeeding for 8 months and wanting to continue.  Lily is a lucky gal.  And sorry to hear that your sleep is suffering.  I hope some of the following thoughts will help.
Your question says “comfort nursing” but she could very well be hungry, so let’s tackle that first. I bet she is increasingly interested in and distracted by her brothers and not concentrating on daytime feedings, right? Offering high-calorie, nutritious table foods is wonderful, but it is totally age appropriate that she continues to prefer breastmilk and she may until 12 months or later.  Sooooo, keep presenting solids while you nurse on demand.  Not at the same time, ha, you know what I mean. And if you can at all manage it see if you can arrange some nursing sessions with no competing stimuli.
I’d start offering a top-off when YOU go to bed, even if its 10 or 11pm and she’s been down for hours.  This can buy you 6 hours on a good night!
If you don’t already, I’d encourage you to cosleep and get good at feeding in the side lying position.  Wear a loose nightgown or t-shirt.  I hear all the time that once a child can help himself, Mom can nearly sleep through it.  And because sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone, most cosleeping babies do wake at least once a night until 12 months or later.
Keep yourself healthy so that interrupted sleep doesn’t completely wreck your days-  sunshine, good whole foods, probiotics, vitamins, water.  Don’t over commit or pack your calendar. Cut stress from your life whenever you can.  Accept family help with big kids or hire a cheap teenaged mother’s helper so you can occasionally nap with baby. Lastly and most important, hold on to your sense of humor and realize how quickly she will grow up.  Personally I think I’m going to like these bumpy nights more than I’ll like being awake and waiting for a 17 year old’s car in the driveway.
Will you let me know how it goes? And please, if Lily and her tired parents are looking for gentle night weaning thoughts down the road, email again!

Aurora On My Mind

Like many of you, I’m sure, I am struggling to wrap my brain around the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. And, also, like many of you, I feel saturated by the news coverage, the blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets. I hesitate to add more chatter here, but I hope you’ll understand my need to further digest this cruel event by plucking out a few words here on TOBB. Bear with me, mamas and papas, friends and Facebook fans.

While I’ve always found these kinds of senseless acts of violence heart-dampening and mind-boggling, it wasn’t until I became a mother that they left me feeling breathless with inquietude and helplessness. The morning I gave birth to my son, my heart swelled immeasurably, straining at its seams to contain the flooding love and devotion for this tiny, perfect creature. It’s at those very seams that my heart has ached deeply again over these last few days. I sometimes wonder if motherhood has changed me, or if it simply has punched up the way my life feels, like the way salt accentuates the sweetness of chocolate. There is no question that motherhood has made me feel these tragedies more acutely and intensely.

As parents, we make so many choices with the aim of protecting our babies, of insulating them from harm, of providing them a well-nurtured start in life. We meticulously inform ourselves so that we can influence and cultivate what we feel is best for our children.  I think of the choices I have made in this direction in my son’s last 19 months: babywearing; breastfeeding into toddlerhood; bedsharing; cloth diapering; vaccine discrimination and staggering; buying organic, whole food and trying to avoid processed foodstuffs; adopting gentle discipline approaches. I am continually educating myself about these ideas, continually practicing them to the best of my abilities on any given day. But none of these things would protect or insulate my son should a disturbed, dangerous person walk into room and begin firing a weapon at him.

And that’s precisely what leaves me so deeply unsettled in the wake of these kinds of tragedies: they make me feel powerless as a mother. It’s a paralyzing thought.

I think of the gunman’s mother, and I wonder, empathetically, if she feels a similar sense of powerlessness in all of this. I imagine she questions her role in this, wonders what she might have done differently to protect her son from his deadly decision. As I nursed my son down for his nap this afternoon, I stared with awe at his blond curls, his delicate eyebrows, the fine peach fuzz on his ears–all of which feel like tiny little luxuries to me. And as I watched adoringly while my son comfort nursed, I wondered if the gunman’s mother ever did this, too, this affectionate accounting of the ethereal gifts in her arms.

Yesterday morning I took my son for a long walk through our neighborhood’s park. We talked about the runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, robins and squirrels we passed. We stopped into the park’s farmers’ market, perused a rainbow’s colorful bounty of fresh produce, and purchased a mid-morning snack to share. We sat together, elbow to elbow, on a stone bench  while we split a crusty, artisan grilled cheese sandwich and munched on juicy sun gold tomatoes. My son leaned into me in that spontaneously affectionate way that makes a mama’s heart skip a beat. When I leaned back into him and said, “Arlo, I love you,” with a tender inflection he responded, “I know.”

And perhaps that is what we should remember in the face of these stunningly sad tragedies: the greatest  power that we can wield as mothers is ensuring that our children understand–without doubt, come what may–the immense strength and depth of our uncompromising, boundless love.

Rhianna lives in St. Louis with her husband and toddler, both of whom she’s been hugging a little tighter these days.

Photo credit: rosmary, Flickr Creative Commons

Motherhood does not end

I was heartsick to see another senseless mass shooting when I awoke today. By the end of the weekend, whether we want to or not, we’ll know everything there is to know about the movie theatre shooter. We’ll know if he was on drugs, if he was abused or bullied, recently fired from a job or dumped by a lover.  We already know that he was carrying at least 3 weapons and that he booby-trapped his apartment before the spree.  We know that he was pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience.

Right there I know 10x more about him than about any of the victims.  I hate that fact, but it happens after every tragedy, doesn’t it?

We need to know why.  We need something to blame, besides the 3 guns and an obviously disturbed brain.  And digesting information about him is something we can DO because we can’t undo the tragedy.

As parents we know we can’t prepare for every eventuality or prevent every bad thing from befalling our children, as much as we wish we could.  The parents who lost their children last night could not have done anything differently.  A cinema is not normally a dangerous place.

But what do you think about HIS parents?  Do you think they could have done something differently?  Loved him more or better?  Saved him earlier and in turn saved the lives of so many? Don’t we want to know as much about the murderer as possible in the hope that somebody sees the same red flags and stops the next murderer in time?

Someone claiming to be the shooter’s mother called in to a news program saying “you have the right person.”  You’d better believe that this woman is about to be all over your TV and papers. Imagine making that call, Mamas? Imagine making that call and saying those words and now spending the rest of your life thinking of all the chances you missed to prevent this? Please don’t misunderstand me.  A 24-year-old is his own man, and no one planned the attack and pulled the trigger but he.  But tragically, her words say loud and clear that this horrendous crime was no surprise.

It’s near impossible in the throes of these high-needs years  to think that there will be a day when I am not intimately involved in every move my sons make.  But it will come.

Motherhood does not end.  On most days, I like to imagine myself encouraging my post-college children to spread their wings, be independent, have adventures, for God’s sake don’t text me all the time.  But today I think of the woman making that phone call.  I am more committed than ever to fostering a healthy strong emotional connection with my children.  Sons, I promise that I can handle all of you.  I am not afraid of big emotions.  You don’t have to hide the worst parts of yourself from me.  I will be strong for you when you feel weak and while I am living I will always help you.

Rebecca is a wife and mother and community builder.  She sends her sincere sympathy and prayers to Aurora,CO.

Carnival: Travel and Vacation

Welcome to the June edition of Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Vacation and Travel.

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting. This month our participants are sharing ideas, inspiration and information on travel and vacations! Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Travel Goddesses! It has been too many weeks. It just so happens that the last installation of my Traveling Light with Kids series coincided with this wonderful Carnival dedicated to Travel and Vacation hosted by Authentic Parenting. The plus? Not only will you get my tips for traveling light, but you will also get travel tips and stories from scads of other family road (and sky) warriors. Bonus!

Without further ado…

Traveling Light with Your Toddler

So far I have given you some juicy tips about efficiently packing for yourself, lowering your overall traveling stress level, and traveling light with an infant. If you missed those posts, you can check them out here, here, and here. Now, let’s talk toddlers!

Toddlers are totally fantastic. I wake up every morning excited to see what will come out of our daughter’s mouth or what new skill she will master. They are high energy little learning sponges. These characteristics, while endearing, can make traveling a bit of a challenge. When your toddler is used to spending days at the park, exploring at the library, or playing at home and with friends, the concept of staying in one place for an extended period of time during your journey can be a bit of a challenge. Little things can make all the difference. How can you travel light, but still have all the things you need at your fingertips to pack a heavyweight punch of enjoyment for your toddler? Try these tips…

Tip 1: Smart Snacks

Is there anyone who doesn’t like special snacks on a trip? I do. And your toddler will especially appreciate them. They occupy time and really taste good. My one go-to snack of choice for airplanes and car-trips alike is freeze-dried fruit from Trader Joe’s (the strawberries are great!). They are physically light, calorically light, healthy, delicious, and fun to crunch. I find these are particularly useful on airplanes during the dreaded “we have boarded but are still waiting for everyone else to get to their seats” times. They are also stellar upon take-off and landing to keep your little one’s ears free and clear from the altitude changes. So, dig in! Just make sure to check to see if your brand has added sugar and consider making them an exciting treat reserved only for your travels.

Tip 2: The animal pillow/blanket combo

One of the marvels of plush toy innovations is the animal pillow/blanket combo. The belly of the animal is actually a blanket that has been rolled tight and has had the animal velcroed around it. It’s great for naps, chilly planes/cars, and something familiar from home that can become an instant travel buddy. Another plus? They are inexpensive. We got ours at Costco for $7. It has been worth every penny. Worried about space? Simply slip a carabiner around the neck and attach it to your carry-on bag. This is bang for your luggage buck!

Tip 3: Ditch the Stroller

You are the proud owner of a mover and groover. Don’t worry about bringing a stroller. Its heavy, bulky, and your toddler will most likely want to walk anyways. Why fuss with extra “stuff?” Traveling by plane? Don’t forget your Ergo- or Boba-style carrier for those times when your toddler love wants to be carried through the terminal and your arms are full. At this stage, they especially think its fun to ride (and fall asleep) on your back! Driving? Stick your carrier in the trunk for impromptu museum visits and hikes. They are great and all-terrain!

Tip 4: Simple Toys

If you are adventuring, the change-of-scenery is like one, big, new toybox. The bonus for you is that you can keep the toys you bring with you very simple and light. Pack a small bag for plane, train, or automobile with a Magnadoodle, stickers (this is a must), paper, and a few books. Voila! Long-time entertainment. Also consider making your toy choices unique to only the times you are traveling…it makes it all the more exciting.

Tip 5: Invest in a travel potty

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta go. For those toddlers that are already good-to-go in this area or for those still in training, this can be a total stress reliever for you and them! My current favorite is the Potette Plus 2-in-1 by Kalencom. For about $15 you can invest in a travel potty that doubles as a stand-alone and a seat insert all while fitting into a medium-sized handbag. Awesome! It brings me peace of mind knowing that I can attend to her needs whether we are hiking on the trail (please observe pack in/pack out rules), in a busy airport, or in the car without a bathroom in sight.

Tip 6: Seek out some reversible clothing

Did your strapping boy get a little too fiesty with the ketchup at lunch? Wipe off the big chunks and turn his jacket to the other side! I stumbled upon the joys of reversible children’s clothing by accident when I bought a cute spring jacket for our daughter at a consignment shop this year. We have since invested in more reversible pieces that we bring with us whenever we travel. With two sides in one, you can pack less and be less stressed about doing laundry and changing clothes during the day. When you show up at Grandma’s house for special Sunday dinner, she will be none the wiser that junior has strawberries smashed down the front of his shirt (because it’s on the inside).

Travel light and safe family road warriors, and check out my other blog posts (see above) for additional traveling light tips! Travel is an amazing experience for folks of any age, but especially our little ones. The more you travel, the more they will grow to love and appreciate the diversity of our Mother Earth. It is a gift that will live inside of them forever. That is pretty incredible! So, get out there and get going!

Stephanie is a seasoned traveler who refuses to think that owning a home is the American Dream. There are far too many amazing places to live and experience! Someday she hopes to travel to New Caledonia off the eastern coast of Australia to experience as close to what it was like to live in the Jurassic Period 160 million years ago as she can get!

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APBC - Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic ParentingVisit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Traveling with a Sick Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her tips and tricks for traveling with a sick child based on firsthand experience.
  • Educational Travel | Pennsylvania, New Mexico &; LouisianaThat Mama Gretchen relives three childhood trips while outlining a plan for future homeschooling adventures.
  • Babymoon: A Cruise in Europe — Bianca from The Pierogie Mama writes about the babymoon that she and her husband took to Europe, via a week long cruise through the Western Mediterranean..
  • Travelling with our little oneStoneageparent describes what travelling means to her family, exploring the link between attachment parenting and travelling
  • I Just Can’t Do It — aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings describes the nightmare it is trying to travel with her daughter, and how for the moment day-trips to local areas will have to suffice.
  • Carnival: Travel and VacationMacgyvermama rounds out her “Travel Light with Babies and Kids” series with some juicy tips on how to travel light and stress free with your moving and grooving Toddler!
  • Traveling: Adventure, Nature, Family — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her hopes and fears for her Great Summer Camping Road Trip with her three small children.
  • Frustration Free Flying with Kids — Based on her extensive experience flying with her family, Laura at Authentic Parenting shares tips on how to make the trip fun for you and your children.
  • 12 Awesome Toys To Bring Along When Traveling With ChildrenAriadne over at Positive Parenting Connection is sharing about toys her children love and playful ways to use them that make travel with children more fun and less stressful for the whole family.

How Old is Too Old? (A Mom’s Thoughts on Co-Sleeping)

How old is too old? What natural parent hasn’t heard this question or wondered it? Lately, the focus has been on breast feeding, but what I want to really know is:  How old is too old to co-sleep?

As a mom of two, I’ve had two completely different experiences.

My daughter, who just turned two, sleeps best on her own. For the first few weeks of her life, she slept in a pack-and-play next to our bed. Not long after, she fell in love with her crib and a blankie. She loved to snuggle, did a great job nursing, but she was restless if stayed in our bed. Some of it had to do with reflux—she slept much better on an angle. Some of it was just her—she loves her space and gets frustrated if she can’t have it.

My son couldn’t be any different. At five, he goes to sleep in his own bed, but it’s a rare early morning when he doesn’t end up in our room whispering, “Mom, Mommy, Mom! Can I come in?” From the start, he wasn’t the type of baby you could just put down. Some of it was due to us being first time parents, some of it was that he just found it easier to fall asleep snuggling someone—and he still does.

We didn’t intend on co-sleeping. We had heard all the “negatives” of having your child sleep with you and nothing of the positives— we wanted what we heard was best for our baby. But night after night, our little man ended up in bed with us sleeping soundly through the night. Away from us, he was awake and upset.

A few months down the road, we accepted new jobs in another state. While the pack and play joined us, our son’s crib went into storage. What once was a guilty feeling that he wasn’t in a crib soon became a fading thought. Long commutes and not enough time together made co-sleeping even more convenient and comforting for all of us. Once we settled into our new home, our son wanted nothing to do with his crib. He transitioned to a “big boy” bed, but bedtime was a nightly struggle. Where some kids choose blankies or a special bear, my son chose me. I’d have to crawl in with him, snuggle and then eventually tiptoe out of the room; then repeat a few times a night. My second pregnancy didn’t make things easier. Morning (more like 24/7) sickness and the expected tiredness led to me falling asleep sometimes sooner than he did. A few months in and we were back to full-time co-sleeping sans nursing. It took just as many months after our daughter was born for  him to be comfortable with his room again.

Today, we’re at a turning point with both kids. My little man starts kindergarten in the fall and he’s becoming more independent every day. I’m sure he’ll always love to snuggle, but it won’t be much longer until he chooses to stay in his room all night long. My sweet girl is almost ready for a “big girl” bed, and I’m wondering how she’ll like it. Will she still prefer her own space, or will a whole new round of, “Mom, Mommy, Mom,” start?

I’m not going to shut our door anytime soon, but lately when 0ur king-sized bed feels a little “crowded,” and I’m about to fall off the bed, I honestly start thinking it’s time to reclaim our bed. A few hours later when I have more room and everyone is sleeping peacefully, I take it all back.

What has your experience been? How will or how did you handle transitions? Did you have different experiences with different kids?

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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! *******************************************************************************************************************************

Kristen is mom to Will (5) and Joy (2). She “discovered” co-sleeping before she knew there was a name for it, and was relieved when she finally heard the positives. While she won’t mind the extra sleeping room, she’ll miss the sound of her little man snoring when he decides his room is the cool place to be.

NonPetroleum Jelly

Photo credit: D. Kuster 2009

This is the only balm that you will ever need.

I wish that I could tell you that this is my recipe. It’s not. Instead, it is one of the ingenious concoctions of Annie Berthold-Bond (www.anniebbond.com), a best-selling author of five green living books. I came across her book, Better Basics for the Home, while I was registering for our baby shower. I instantly ordered it. It was one of the best $13 I have ever spent. It is truly a labor of love.

I made a batch of NonPetroleum Jelly when our daughter had a bout of severely dry skin at the beginning of Winter. Other lotions and creams wouldn’t touch it. NonPetroluem Jelly did the trick after one application. Safe, effective, and cheap…we had pretty much hit the jackpot. Over the course of using the first batch, my husband and I started using it on ourselves as well. We used in on our faces, lips, body, scars, cuts, dry patches, bug bites. It seemed to work on anything. I like to think of it akin to Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This balm nourishes through olive oil, protects through beeswax, and preserves through grapefruit seed extract. Try it!

NonPetroleum Jelly by Annie Berthold-Bond

2 ounces olive oil (more oil to make it less thick)

1/2 ounce beeswax

12 drops grapefruit seed extract

Combine the oil and beeswax in a double broiler and place over medium heat until the wax is melted. Remove from heat, add the grapefruit seed extract, and mix with the hand or electric mixer until creamy.

Prep time: 25 minutes

Shelf Life: 1 year

Storage: Glass jar with a screw top

If you are not sure about using the grapefuit seed extract, this is a natural preservative. Add it if you plan on storing the balm for a long time, as the oil can go rancid. I have never used it because the batches that I make never hang around more than a few weeks.

For fun, let’s do a price breakdown! For my balm I use Trader Joe’s Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil (33.8 fl oz for $5.99), a block on beeswax from Joann’s Fabrics and Crafts (1 lb for $6.99 after coupon). The ingredients for one batch of NonPetroleum Jelly costs: $0.35 for the olive oil + $0.21 for the beeswax for a Grand Total of $0.56. Not bad! If we add in the cost of 12 drops of grapefruit seed extract we would add on approximately $0.03.

Choose your favorite ingredients and start mixing!

Stephanie loves making her own skincare products, not only because they are better for her skin-type, but also because she is a total cheapo.

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.

5 Tips For Traveling Light and Stress-Free with Your Infant

Photo Credit: Dan Kuster, 2009

Have you booked your Spring and Summer travel, God(dess)? Don’t be scared, especially if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful, gurgling infant. My mom, in her infinite wisdom, gave me an awesome piece of advice when our daughter was born. She said, “Travel now while all you need is a boob and a diaper!” (or in our case, some boobies,  a baby potty, and some back-up cloth diapers). I think at the time I rolled my eyes, overwhelmed with 24/7 nursing, very little sleep, and the obligatory “peak crying” at 46 weeks.

However, as the purple haze of the first few weeks of mommyhood lifted, we began to plan trips on planes and automobiles, and it was actually fun! Most likely your first trip will be to a grandparent’s house. It is a great place to get your sea legs and adventure more from there. Please enjoy these tips for traveling with your infant…and GET GOING!

Tip 1: Bring your nursing pillow.

The breast idea in the entire world! When my husband first suggested this for our first flight from Boston to Iowa with our daughter, I balked at the idea. Seriously? That was not my idea of traveling light. But once I removed the cover and stuffed it with baby’s clothing, cloth diapers, and burp cloths I realized how brilliant this was. Not only did I have everything I needed at hand, but also had a comfy place for our daughter to sleep during the flight. The result? I nursed her during take-off, she fell asleep for the entire flight, and I got to snuggle her without getting an arm cramp while reading a book. Win win win!

Tip 2: Ditch the stroller, bring the carrier.

Strollers take up a lot of space. Babies are light and love to be close to you. Bring your carrier! You can literally sashay through the airport, adventure forever through museums, go on long walks with grandma, and sooth her if you need to. A bonus? They are all-terrain!

Choose a carrier that is correct for your babe’s development. A Moby and Baby K’tan are great for very young babies (and pack down small too). For those with more head and torso control, I recommend the Boba or Ergo style carriers.

Tip 3:  Don’t forget the duct tape!

Macgyvermama approved! Duct tape can fix anything. Got a hole in your muffler during a road trip? No problem. Need a prom dress? Whip one up! However, a roll of duct tape is also a cheap (and light) way to baby-proof where you are staying away from home. If your babe isn’t mobile yet you don’t have to worry about this, but if you have a crawler/cruiser on your hands, duct tape is just the thing you need to blast out some DIY socket covers in the hotel room. You can also use it to tie up loose curtain and electrical cords, keep drawers closed, and patch sharp corners. Remember, less stress = more enjoyment. (Just make sure it doesn’t take the paint off the wall).

Tip 4: Organize baby’s clothes

Babies are small. They have small shirts, small socks, and small pants. When packing for your child (after you have packed your suitcase, God(dess)) use small, reusable drawstring bags (or gallon Ziplock bags if you prefer) to organize clothing. One outfit (shirt, pants, socks, etc) goes in each bag. This avoids overpacking and reduces the barrier to getting baby dressed (or re-dressed throughout the day). Whoever is with baby at the time of a wardrobe change can simply pick a bag without disturbing Papa from his nap or Momma from her soak in the bathtub.

Tip 5: Leave space for pottying and/or changing

I snuck this one in to see if you were following the “Travel God(dess) 75% Rule” from our last travel post. If you have followed the rule, you already have plenty of space! Traveling by car? Leave space either in the backseat or trunk to comfortably potty and/or change your little world traveler. It is less stressful than trying to dodge dirty truckstop bathrooms with your bundle of joy. Traveling by plane? Good luck. Most planes have itty bitty changing tables and most seat inserts fit on airplane toilets. Just take a deep breath (or six) and imagine yourself in a Saturday Night Live skit.

Continue practicing Elimination Communication as much as you can while you are traveling. You will gain a lot more space by not having to pack as many diapers and a little potty/bowl is an easy thing to bring with you. You may be surprised how your little babe rises to the occasion of travel!

Worth a mention: If you are planning a trip overseas with your baby, call the airlines and reserve a flying bassinet. Baby not only can sleep in it, but it makes an excellent “play space” where baby can sit and admire her surroundings.

Next up, Traveling Light with Your Toddler! Join us in two weeks. Happy travels!

Stephanie’s daughter took her first road trip to see her Grandmother in Maryland at 4 months old. It ended up being an 11 hour trip full of traffic jams, the Jersey Turnpike, and nursing escapades. She was a complete rockstar and hardly fussed. That was more than she could say for her parents.