Category Archives: mommy wars

A Soapbox

I have a bone to pick. I have a feeling this might not be a very popular post. I’m feeling kind of snarky today for no particular reason so whatever.

I don’t have a bone to pick with anyone in particular, really. I have a bone to pick with labeling. Don’t get me wrong, some labels are important. FDA labels. Medication labels. Warning labels. GMO labels. Those kinds of things are important.

I have a problem with parenting labels. It seems to be super important for mothers to label themselves and the kind of “parenting” they parent with. There’s so many “kinds” of parenting out there, and people have some strong feelings about all of them, and I’m here to say that it’s all bullshit. The specific thing that has my goat today (though I’m not sure why) is this whole thing called “gentle parenting” or “attachment parenting.” Mothers who adhere to this idea do things like extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, co-bathing, babywearing, not using the cry-it-out method…you get my drift. And there is nothing wrong with ANY of those things. Nothing. But why do we have to call it “gentle” parenting? So say I don’t do things like co-sleep. Does that therefore imply that I’m not a gentle parent? Or that I’m not attached to my child because I allow her to cry sometimes?

I am really tired of people carrying around this label on their shoulders like it makes them a better mother than me because I don’t let my kid sleep in the same bed. Whatever way you want to raise your child is fine. Breastfeed till age 3? Congratulations. Sleep in the same bed till they’re in kindergarten? Fine. But why does anyone feel the need to broadcast this? Why label yourself an “attachment parent?” Why label yourself anything? Here’s something I’d like to broadcast about all this, in all capital letters because I’d like you to imagine me shouting it from the top of a big soapbox:

NOBODY GIVES A FUCK HOW YOU RAISE YOUR KID.

I don’t look at a toddler and think, oh, he was raised with attachment parenting. When you get to a job interview nobody asks if your mother let you cry till you fell asleep on your own. Chances are unless you were abandoned repeatedly or fed blue meth as an infant, you’re going to turn out pretty much the same as anybody else no matter how your mother(s)/father(s) chose to parent you. My daughter is not going to go to kindergarten and seek out friends who were formula fed and form a clique that talks shit about kids who were breastfed, or vice versa. Kids don’t give a fuck about this sort of stuff, so why do we? Yeah, it’s important that YOU care and feel strongly about the choices you make, but it has no business being anyone else’s business.

Mothers need to quit wasting time worrying that other women care how they are raising their children. Because nobody does. Who has time to care? I have time to raise my child in the manner that works for me, my husband, and our daughter. My motherhood does not make me a martyr and I have nothing to prove to anyone except myself. One method of parenting is not better than the other and nobody cares that you picked one over the other. Make your choices, raise your family, and shut up.

But one more thing, while I’m at it. Since I’m already up on this soapbox. Since my follower count is already dropping anyway. Can we do away with the pictures of the baby eating with the edge of your boob in the picture? I get it, you’re proud to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is cool. But do we need shitloads of pictures of it and your boobs?

You may now return to your regularly scheduled Friday.

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I Love Sleep. Sleepy, sleep, sleep.

“Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” 

– Napoleon Bonaparte

I should preface this post with the fact that I have never actually seen Anchorman a disclaimer to appease the Mommy Wars combatants out there. I’m not using this post to brag, criticize, or diagnose. I’m not saying anything I’m doing here is better than anything anyone else is doing. I’m not claiming to be an expert at infant sleep or anything like that, but since we have a 4-month old who has slept pretty much through the night for a long time, I figure we must be doing something right. I’m just putting forth a list of things that work for us in the event that someone out there is frantically googling for help. Maybe something here will help. Maybe not. Whatever. Take what you need, leave what you don’t. If you don’t agree, feel free to keep on moving.

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Despite the awful first few months we went through with the Bean, I have to admit that she has always been a relatively decent sleeper. It was more difficult at first, obviously, but since she was about 8 weeks old we settled into a pattern and since then (knock on wood) she has been a rock star sleeper.

I think what has made it work for us is 2 major things: routine, and her disposition. Not all babies like to sleep, plain as that. The Bean does! She is like her mommy like that. If I peek into her room during her nap before she is done sleeping, she will actually give me a look, turn her head away from me, and continue snoozing. Fine by me.

So here’s some things that work for us in the sleep department. Like I said, I’m not looking to be contested or criticized, nor do I want people to think I’m bragging or saying that what I’m doing is better than anyone else. What works for one family doesn’t for another.

1. White noise machine. We have a little sound machine that I got at Walmart for like 15 bucks and it is awesome. It runs on batteries or A/C and has 6 different sounds. You can time it out to turn off after a certain amount of time, but I pretty much leave it on all the time.

2. Humidifier. Not sure if this contributes at all to the sleep, but I figured I’d mention it since we use it every night. It is SO dry up here, and I notice that if we don’t use it, she ends up boogery and congested the next morning. (So do we!) We have one that projects stars onto the ceiling which is an awesome night light, and it has a slot for Vick’s menthol…thingies? in the back so that if she is ever sick or congested, I can just pop one of those things in there and it will fill the room with Vick’s vapor. I think this cost me $30 or so but it has been a great investment.

3. Wrapping her. At first, she had to be swaddled to sleep. She is definitely one of those babies who prefers to be tucked in tightly. I am the same way though–I love climbing into bed and cocooning myself! Now that she is a bit bigger, I wrap her in an afghan tight enough that she feels secure, but loose enough that she can get her arms free if she needs. I have tried putting her in a sleep sack/wearable blanket, but the startle reflex is still in effect and she tends to wake herself up too much with those, so once that fades, I’ll start putting her back in that.

4. Naps! I am a true believer in that whole “sleep begets sleep” theory. Caroline naps usually 3 times a day, but sometimes she makes it 2 long ones. The trick, I think, is knowing her signs and schedule. Right now, she can only go about 2 hours in between naps, so usually at the first sign of tiredness, I put her down. I don’t wait until she is really tired. I also have dark curtains in her room so that her room is sufficiently dark during the day.

5. Binkie/Pacifier/Soother/Whatever you call it. Binkies tend to be one of those divisive yes or no items in the battles of the Mommy Wars, but we use them. She isn’t addicted to her binkie, in fact she usually only wants/needs it in two places: in bed, and in the car. When I put her down for sleep, I pop a binkie in, and she goes right to sleep. Sometimes she wakes up in the middle of the night wanting it back, but that is actually getting less and less often now. I think if I just started not giving it to her, she’d be fine, but I figure for now it’s working, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

6. Routine. This one is big, I think. Babies like routines. Late in the afternoon, she will usually go down for one last short nap around 5:00 or so, and even if she is still sleeping at say, 7, I will get her up and start our bedtime routine. I have a feeling if I left her to sleep, she’d be fine, but she’d probably be awake for the day way earlier than I’d like. Our bedtime routine generally consists of a warm bath, low lights in the bedroom, getting into her jammies, lavender lotion, sometimes a story, and finally I turn out the lights and sit in her rocker in the dark and give her her last bottle. Once she is done with that (or sufficiently sleepy and not eating any more) I burp her, wrap her in her blanket, give her a kiss and put her in bed. Pop a binkie in, turn on her sound machine, and walk away and close the door. I check on her once before we go to bed, but other than that, I don’t bother her.

7. Limited interaction during the middle of the night. Right now, she is usually waking once a night to eat. When I hear her fussing on the monitor, I get up, make her bottle (I bring the formula and a clean bottle into the master bathroom before we go to bed since our kitchen is downstairs and it’s just that much faster), pick her up out of bed, change her (if I don’t she is usually soaked through her jammies by morning and I’d rather let her continue to sleep comfortably for as long as possible), and give her her bottle. Then burp, a kiss, back in her blankie, and back to bed with her binkie. I don’t turn on the lights, don’t talk to her very much, and keep things very quiet and calm.

8. Bedtime/Naptime in the crib. For the most part, Caroline has only ever slept in one place: in her crib. Obviously at first she napped frequently in her chair or in her wrap, and she sleeps in the pack and play when we visit her grandparents, but 99% of her nights have been spent in her crib. I’m not comfortable with co-sleeping and have only ever done it a few times when we were really desperate for sleep. Caroline knows that her crib is her safe place and that is where she goes to sleep. Even on night #1 home from the hospital, she slept in her crib in her room. Now–I should point out that we are lucky enough to have an extra bed in her room, and we slept in her room with her for about 8 weeks. I understand this isn’t a possibility for most people and you want to be close to the baby those first few weeks, which is 100% understandable.

9. She sleeps on her tummy. I know, I know. Big supposed no-no. But raise your hand if you were brought up in that generation when tummy sleep was not only the norm but it was recommended. The recommendations regarding SIDS change so often because nobody really knows exactly what causes it. I didn’t sleep her on her belly when she was a newborn, obviously. I waited till she was big enough and strong enough to lift her head, turn it, and support herself on her elbows. She just doesn’t like to sleep on her back. I started it out with naps, so that I could check on her frequently. Finally, I just started doing it for night time too, and she sleeps great. I think you have to feel 100% comfortable with this, though.

10. We let her cry. Yep, another battle cry for the Mommy Wars. If you haven’t already guessed, I’m not big into the whole gentle/attachment parenting thing. Just not my style. If I’ve just put her back to bed after her midnight bottle and I know that she is dry, full, and has burped, but she’s crying or fussing, I’m going to give her a little time to work it out on her own because I know she’s going to go back to sleep. (If anything, I will pop her binkie back in.) I never, ever rush into her room upon the first peep that she makes. When she is napping during the day, if she’s only been down for 45 minutes and I know she could go longer, I will give her a few minutes and if she doesn’t go back down, I’ll sneak into her room and put her binkie back into her mouth and usually that will do the trick. Obviously there are limits to this, I’m not going to let her scream for 45 minutes, and I wouldn’t do this with a newborn, but you get the idea. I know she knows how to put herself back to sleep and I think that’s super important with establishing good sleep habits.

So there you have it. Those are the sleep tricks that work for us–for the time being, naturally! I know things often change once teething begins, but I also think that establishing good sleep routines from the beginning helps a lot. I kept seeing people online talk about a 4-month sleep regression, but I don’t think we’ve had to deal with that. Every night is pretty much golden! (Not to press my luck or anything.) I’m happy to elaborate on anything you’re interested in hearing more about.

Happy sleeping!

Formula.

I know, super engaging title. Roll with me.

I mentioned in my last post how hard it was for me to cope with the ending of my nursing career with Caroline and, further, switching from pumped breast milk to formula. I’ve been wanting to write about it for a while, because it’s something that I’ve been struggling with.

I never was one of those people in the “no formula! evil!” camp. I was a formula fed baby and so was my brother and for the most part both of us turned out just fine. Sure, obviously breast milk is #1 because, well, that’s what we’re designed for. Boobies are for milk no matter what the lingerie industry likes to have us believe. But as an alternative, it isn’t as if formula is poison. Similac has been a trusted resource for quite some time now. And I always knew that, but I had pretty much resolved myself to spending the time and energy required to breastfeed for a year–that was my optimistic goal, but I figured absolutely no less than 6 months. Well, I barely got 3 out of the deal, which upset me a lot. Part of it was pride, because I liked the fact that her nourishment came from me. Another part of it was that I liked it–I liked the quiet time, I liked the fact that it was something that only she and I could do. Obviously it started out rough, but I was proud of the fact that we had worked through the hardest moments and after 8 weeks or so we had finally turned a corner–so I thought–and it was all working out. It never really occurred to me that the reason for the colic/discomfort was potentially due to the mechanics of the breastfeeding and/or the fact that she probably just wasn’t getting as much milk as she needed and wanted. It was a nasty cycle that was feeding into itself (no pun intended) and it really didn’t become apparent until it was already in hindsight.

And of course, once we did start bottle feeding and the change was so dramatic, I had to come to terms with the fact that I probably couldn’t nurse anymore, or at least not exclusively. For a while I tried to hold on to our nighttime feeds, but when a week went by and she woke up every single hour at night we started to sense that she just wasn’t getting full. The first night I fed her a bottle, she slept for 4 hours. So there went my last hold out of night feeds. I was pretty well crushed about the whole thing. I felt like this one thing that I was designed to do wasn’t working and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it.

Then, when my supply started to dip and my anxiety peaked again, I found myself sitting at the kitchen counter with 2 ounces of pumped milk and a hungry baby who was ready to go to sleep. And I didn’t have enough milk for the night. In the cupboard was a box of trial-size formula tins that Similac had sent me in the mail before the baby was even born. We still had a couple little bottles of newborn nutrition ready-feed formula that the hospital had sent us home with when she was being supplemented at the very beginning, too. Cameron, of course, didn’t think twice. Add the formula to the milk, he said. What’s the big deal?

And what was the big deal? Well, I had to deal with the feeling that my body was failing me and Caroline. Wasn’t I supposed to continue making enough milk for her? Why was it failing at only 11 weeks? And then there was the fact that feeding her formula was never in my “plan.” Of course I knew that there was nothing wrong with formula. It’s just that it’s expensive, and I figured if I was going to be home with her, breast milk is free. But still, when I added the liquid formula to my pitiful 2 ounces of milk and fed it to her before she went to bed, I heard this voice in the back of my head and it said you are failing. I felt so miserable and like such a horrible mother–and why? I knew that formula is no big deal. And let’s face it, I didn’t have much other choice. My milk was failing, Caroline was hungry, and there was formula in the cupboard. Easy solution.

As the next week went on and I supplemented more and more and eventually finally decided to just start formula feeding her, I thought a lot about what it was that made me feel so bad about giving her formula when I knew there was nothing wrong with it. And I realized that it all went back to the medical professionals I had interacted with since the time I was pregnant. During our childbirth classes, the teacher gave us a gloss-over of the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula, and I didn’t even really think about it at the time because I was planning to breastfeed. But I realized after the fact that her little “Breast is Best” speech was actually a diatribe about the evil horrors of formula and the havoc that it will wreak on the baby’s incomplete tummy. Our first morning in the hospital when she had lost so much weight, I had two nurses arguing over me–literally–about what to do with her. The older nurse was saying, we’ll supplement her with formula, no problem. The younger nurse, a lactaction consultant, was saying no, let her pump colostrum and we’ll syringe feed it to her. And again, I didn’t even think about it at the time, but some part of me was like, why is this even a question? The baby is hungry and tiny and losing weight, just give her the formula. When we left the hospital the nurse had to go to the pediatric unit to find some formula to send home with us so we could supplement like the doctor wanted, because the labor and delivery unit can’t even keep formula in the unit or they will lose their “breast friendly” status. When I went to her doctor about her colic for the umpteenth time and mentioned that she had been refusing to nurse, the nurse told me “usually when that happens you have to force them to nurse because otherwise they will prefer a bottle.” (And that was when I was still giving her breastmilk in a bottle.) Force her to nurse? Really? Is the act of breastfeeding really more important than the overall health of the baby and the mother? Who cares HOW she is getting the breastmilk as long as she is getting it?

So it finally occurred to me: no wonder I felt bad about giving her formula. Every medical professional I had bumped into since getting pregnant had been pounding anti-formula vitriol into my brain. Aren’t we supposed to trust medical professionals? It came to me that I actually had no idea what to do with the formula and I had to look it all up on my own on Similac’s website. There were no resources given to me when I was pregnant about what to do in the event that breastfeeding didn’t work out, for whatever reason(s). I felt oddly comforted by Similac’s website. It sounded inviting, comfortable, and had lots of disclaimers like “We believe breastfeeding is best, but if you decide to supplement with formula, we have what you’ll need.” It didn’t sound judgy. I didn’t find myself at a website saying “You shouldn’t even be looking at this website. Shame on you. Get back to putting that baby to the breast.”

It’s been several weeks now since we made the switch to formula and while I have to admit my stress is way less, I do miss the nursing sometimes. But, I have to look at my sweet Bean and admit that she is so. much. better. She is growing and learning and is happy and I have to remind myself that nobody should give a shit about how I am feeding her and what I am feeding her except me and Cameron. Still, it hurts sometimes when I come across blogs written by mothers who are lamenting the fact that their baby self-weaned at 2 years and how much they miss it. I have to curb my cynicism and my desire to say “You got 2 years out of the deal. Quit yer bitchin’.” I didn’t choose to stop nursing and I didn’t want to, it was a response to necessity, but sometimes I feel like some women look at formula feeders and think we must be lazy or have taken the easy route out. It hasn’t been easy to take this road, at least for me.

So, in those moments when I get nostalgic for the nursing or feel angry with the culture of anti-formula/mommy shaming, I remind myself of my new year’s resolutions and remember to be present and positive, and I think of the positives to formula feeding. I still get my quiet time with her before bed. She still can reach out and hold my thumb while she drifts off to sleep. She SLEEPS! No more getting up every 2 hours at night–this week she slept 10 hours in a row. I can wear whatever kinds of clothes I want. (My favorite hoodie was missing me!) I can go wherever I want with her and not worry about having enough milk pumped for her or having to get home in time to make more. She can stay overnight with Meme and Papi and I don’t have to spend days pumping a freezer supply first. I can drink as much coffee and wine as I want and I can indulge in my clove cigarette vice every so often. You know, all those bad things you’re not supposed to do anyway. (Hey, I’m a writer. When I get stuck, I drink more coffee and have a cigarette. What can I say.)

Most of all…she is happy. She has been so happy since we stopped nursing and as much as it hurts me, I have to remember that her happiness and health is the most important thing. It would have been incredibly selfish of me to try to continue nursing when it obviously wasn’t the best for her, no matter what the anti-formula doctors and lactivists say. Life is a moving target and nothing is ever black and white.