Archive for April, 2011

This is going to be a bragging post.  We have the best night time set up I could imagine.  I sleep wonderfully, and so do Mr. Fair and Little Man.  You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you’ve read my recent posts about the flack I get from family over baby night-wakings.  You see, the flack-givers don’t understand what attachment parents do: that night-waking in a family bed is barely waking at all.  It goes something like this: baby rubs nose, mom angles boob at baby’s face, baby latches, mom’s asleep again. It’s actually so easy, that most nights I couldn’t even tell you how often it happens.  At least twice, but beyond that… who knows?  Gotta love that family bed.

Except, I’m not sure it is a family bed.  You see, we split up our family bed – which consists of two queen mattresses – into two different rooms.  Ya, that’s right.  He sleeps in his own room… and we sleep in our own room… but we all sleep together.  Confused yet?

So this is how it works.  We put Little Man to sleep in his bed, in his room.  Then I get my off time.  Woot!  From bed until about midnight, Dad is in charge.  There’s usually one wakeup before I go to bed – or round about the time I’m going anyway.  But since Dad is in charge, he goes in to snooze with Little Man.  I go to bed in our room, and some time in the night – lately it’s been midnight like clockwork – Little Man wakes up and decides that Dad is no longer cutting it.  It’s booby time.

Now the musical beds start.  Dad usually heads back to our room, and I nurse the Hungry Man.  Most nights, I’m so sound asleep before he’s done nursing that that’s where I stay all night and Mr. Fair joins us for morning cuddles before he heads off to work.  But some nights, I’m still awake after he’s drifted back off to sleep, so I decide to head back to our room.  Some nights I feel like I want that night-time autonomy, so I stay awake on purpose.  That’s the beauty of our divided beds, you see.  I can choose where to go.

There are also occasional nights when Little Man gets restless and won’t settle with me.  It’s usually a vicious cycle of wanting to nurse but being full, so he unlatches, but he wants to nurse, but he’s full… ad infinitum.  On those nights, Dad comes back in, and I head to our room.  Presto.

It might sound complicated, but it works remarkably well.  We get to strike the balance of sleeping together, while having the chance to sleep separately when we want or need to.  Little Man is used to being in his bed in his room, so if and when we want to transition to sleeping less with him and more together in our own bed, I know it’ll be easier.  Best of all, it lets me balance my two sleep priorities: that I get as much sleep as possible and that Little Man’s needs always be met.  We get what we need, so we aren’t your typical parents complaining about being exhausted.  He gets what he needs, so he isn’t your typical toddler stalling bedtime because he dreads being isolated all night.

But I’m still not sure I’m really allowed to call it a family bed.  Oh well, I’ll just call it awesome!


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Dealing with ‘those’ days

This post is a fleshier version of a comment I left for Kelly at Becoming Crunchy.  Kelly wrote about having one of those days.  You know  them.  The ones when the world seems like a giant hill and you’re constantly at the bottom of it.  The days that make you throw your hands up and give in and then you feel like a complete failure for giving in.  Yup, you know them.

I’ve been trying to figure out some strategies for myself for those kinds of days and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

I try to keep a *better* comfort food option in the house.  Like Kelly, I love the frozen pizzas and they’re usually my go-to wit’s end food.  But I also love spaghetti.  If it’s made with white flour all the better!  So I keep one pack and a can of sauce (I usually make sauce from scratch) in the cupboard.  It’s still not a wonderful meal, but it’s an improvement over Delissio so I don’t end up beating myself up as much.  When we finally get a deep freeze, I also plan on cooking a large batch of comfort food (including pizza!) to keep in said freezer for just these occasions.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do is keep ‘props’ lists.  Stuff that I’m proud of myself for.  Specifically I call them my “Done Lists” where I jot down everything I do in a day (right down to getting showered.)  I’ve reached a year of being at home and I’m not sure of my work future so I’ve been feeling, well, useless.  The routine of housework feels never-ending (probably because it is), so I feel like I’m never accomplishing anything.  So I find it helps to have a record of how full my day is, to remind me that I’m not useless.

And the last is that I try to remind myself my diet (and workout routine) is a chequing account, not a savings account.  It’s normal to make withdrawals, so there’s no point trying to avoid them.  The important thing is that the deposits outweigh them.

I would love to hear other strategies for coping with that feeling of defeat that we all get.

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I wrote the other day about my frustration at the emphasis placed on how many hours a baby sleeps at night.  When Little Man was only a couple of months old, Mr. Fair was hearing from coworkers and friends that we’d eventually have to sleep train him and that it would involve ignoring his cries during prescribed hours of the day.  He was thoroughly convinced that this was something we would simply have to do.  We were having this conversation in the car, on our way to visit his Grandma.  So I asked him if he would say the same thing about her.

How would your Granny deserve to be treated?

I call it the Granny Test. Imagine for a few (terrible) minutes that your grandma suffered a stroke.  Her cognitive powers are fully intact, but she’s lost her language abilities so she can’t tell you what she needs, although she’s perfectly capable of assessing those needs.  She has gross motor function, but she can’t coordinate her movements well enough to walk or feed or dress herself.  Basically, she has the same function level as a baby.

Now imagine you get your Granny settled in for the night and some time later, she calls out to you.  Do you go in?  If you do go in, maybe you see your Granny’s blanket has fallen off, so obviously she’s cold.  Does she deserve to have her blanket put back on?

What if your Granny calls out, but when you go in, you can’t see the reason for her discomfort.  Do you assume that she cried for no reason?  Remember, her reasoning is intact.  Or do you wonder if your Granny is thirsty? Maybe she’s in pain?  Does she deserve a glass of water or a Tylenol?

Then again, maybe there really is no physical discomfort.  Maybe she’s just lonely.  Is loneliness a legitimate reason for your Granny to call you in the middle of the night?  Would you call your helpless Granny’s loneliness manipulation?

When I asked my husband these questions, he readily agreed that he would be willing to meet his vulnerable Granny’s needs, even in the night, even if it involved inconvenience to himself.  So why would his vulnerable baby deserve anything less?

To me, the Granny test sums up what is wrong with so much of the conventional thinking about child-rearing.  We think it’s totally acceptable to do something to our children that we would have a difficult time doing to an equally vulnerable adult.  We seem to be treating our children not as small but complete human beings, rather as some sort of lesser species not yet deserving of human respect and dignity.  We’ve forgotten that we are first and foremost their caretaker and instead we act as though we’re their owners.

That kind of attitude doesn’t jive with me.  Babies, just like all other human beings deserve to be treated respectfully.  So whenever I get ‘advice’ I like to put it to the Granny Test.  If I wouldn’t do it to her, I won’t do it to Little Man.

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“Is he sleeping through the night yet?”

This question plagues me.  It seems to follow me everywhere.  Everyone asks – friends, acquaintances, random strangers and especially family – and every time they do, it makes me irate.  Why?  Because it’s a reminder of how messed up our society is when it comes to parenting.  How little we value our kids and our jobs as parents.

Little Man snoozing in the big bed

For starters, there’s the pregnancy/parenting dichotomy. We’re told we can’t be too careful when we’re pregnant.  We can’t give too much to our fetuses.  How many times was I chastised for drinking coffee with a bump?  Eat a piece of salami?  My God, how could I play such Russian roulette with my precious child’s life?  And how often did I hear from people that I shouldn’t want a homebirth, rather welcome a C-section because surely getting the baby out alive (no matter what it did to my body) was the ONLY thing that mattered?

But then the baby is born and the same society tells us to push it away.  Why are you nursing him again so soon?  Why are you nursing him at all?  Formula isn’t poison you know!  You know, newborns don’t really need to nurse at night.  Whatever you do, don’t let him ‘get used’ to sleeping with you or he’ll ALWAYS want to be that comfortable.  Isn’t he sleeping through the night yet?

Yup, the change in ‘advice’ from pre- to post-birth still makes my head spin.  And I often wonder if the two extremes feed each other.  Perhaps women who fall prey to the martyrdom mantra of pregnancy find themselves exhausted, disconnected from everything they used to be and yearning for control of their bodies and lives.  Maybe that makes them more ready to subsequently follow the minimum-inconvenience mantra of parenting, to get back that control.  Maybe we feel we were under the thumb of our fetus, so now it’s our turn to show that fetus who’s boss.  But we don’t realize it wasn’t our baby who took our autonomy, it was our culture, and it’s our culture that needs to be put in its place after our little one is here.

Then there’s SIDS. SIDS is the leading cause of death for infants in Canada other than congenital abnormalities and perinatal trauma.  In other words, sleeping is the single most dangerous thing my baby will do this year.  So why should I make it my goal to leave him vulnerable for as long as possible each day?  I’m perfectly happy to wake up in the night if it means my Little Man will wake up in the morning.  But it doesn’t take statistics to tell you that it’s unnatural and unsafe for a baby to be away from it’s parents all night.  Every parent knows it instinctively.  That’s why there are whole sections of stores devoted to gadget that will let you know your baby isn’t dead.  Right down to the ones that measure every possible marker of aliveness – breath rate, body temperature, heartbeat – and beep it at you all night long.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to know your baby is alive because it wiggles next to you in the night?  I honestly don’t get it.

But these things aside, the question prickles me because I’m not sure why it should be asked at all. Why should it matter to anyone else how long my baby sleeps at night?

The people who ask the question (especially the ones who ask it repeatedly) aren’t asking because they think his wellbeing is in jeopardy.  I know this because these same people see that he’s happy.  All.  Day.  Long.  They see that he’s growing and developing ahead of ‘the curve’.  They compliment me on these things.  If he were falling asleep at breakfast, or screaming all day then I’d be the first to say that something needs to change.  But he’s not, and the doubters know that.

They’re also not asking because they’re concerned about me being exhausted. This one I know because I never complain about being exhausted.  Probably because I’m not, in fact, exhausted.  On the contrary, I sleep better than most moms I know, because I’ve found ways to meet Little Man’s needs easily (ie nursing and bedsharing) and I brag about how rested I am.  I also know that these people aren’t worried about me missing sleep because they’ve never asked me about my sleep before I became a parent.  No, they weren’t calling my dorm room to ask if the other Frosh were ‘giving me at least six hours.’  They weren’t tut-tutting at me when I worked night shifts or crammed for biochem or dragged my drunk ass home at 5am only to head back out at 8.  I guess these were considered acceptable reasons to forfeit sleep, but caring for my (nearly) helpless infant doesn’t make that cut.

They’re asking because sleeping babies have become synonymous with good babies.  In a society where a ‘good’ child is a ‘well-controlled’ child, a baby’s goodness can be numerically summed up, it seems, on a scale of 1 to 12.


I’m going to put in a little caveat here: everyone loves their baby, no matter how many hours that baby sleeps in a row, and even if the method used to achieve that sleep isn’t one I’d employ.  I do get that.  Hey, if Little Man drifted off to sleep and stayed that way all night, I wouldn’t be complaining about it.  This is MY vent about a societal value that I deplore, and about the people in MY life who get on my case about something that is none of their business.  It’s not an attack on parents of babies who sleep ‘well’.

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The teaching.

Most people call it discipline (honestly, so do I most of the time) but it would be more apt to call it teaching.  Because 95% of the time, that’s what it is.  Or at least, that’s what it should be.  Discipline should be 95% instructional, and only about 5% reactionary.  So I like ‘teaching’ better. And it’s time for us to start.

Why now? There are four main reasons for me.

Language. There’s no point saying ‘no’ to someone who doesn’t have the cognitive ability to understand it.  But in the last few weeks Little Man has demonstrated he’s got the skills.  He can give kisses when asked – although usually he turns his head away cackling, the little imp!  And a few weeks ago we were looking after my in-laws’ cat.  If you asked him where the kitty cat was, he’d turn to look down the stairs to the basement, which is where the cat stayed while she was here.  So he’s clearly understanding simple questions and commands.

Scarface Claw from Linley Dodd's 'Hairy McLary from Donaldson's Dairy"

Memory. He’s also started demonstrating in the last little while that he can retain information and patterns.  This also stemmed from cats, oddly.  I bought him a copy of Hairy McLary from Donaldson’s Dairy, a book I loved to read to my charges when I was a nanny.  One of the characters is Scarface Claw, the big mean cat.  The picture made him shriek with terror.  But, mean mom that I am, we tried the book a few more times.  He’d be fine up until a couple of pages before.  Then he’d obviously remember what was coming and start to get antsy.  It was pretty cool actually.  (For the record, he’s not afraid of it any more.)  So this tells me that if we start introducing some patterns for him to learn, he’ll be able to anticipate the later steps of the pattern and react accordingly.

Praise. He has really started to ‘get’ the concept of praise.  Every time he stands himself up without holding on we cheer for him and he loves it.  So now he throws his hands up in the air to cheer for himself when pulls something off.  He’s even started clapping for himself.  It’s a lot easier to get a kid to do as he’s asked if there’s something in it for them.

Necessity. Let’s face it, there’s not much to do when your kid sits in one place all day.  But now he’s on the move.  And it’s beginning to be outside weather.  That means there’s a whole world of mischief that’s available to him now.  Today he decided that the novelty of the driveway has worn off and the road is clearly where it’s at.  Yikes.

Where to start? Well, obviously the road is top of the list.  But here are the other lessons on our roster so far:

Food doesn’t go on the floor. I love BLW, but the floor food is really getting on my nerves!

Only grown-ups reach into the dishwasher. Kind of like the driveway/road, he’s actually decided that grabbing stuff out of the dishwasher (ie pokey knives) isn’t cool enough, so he’s escalated to trying to climb right in.  Nightmare.

Tidy up! Pretty self-explanatory.

What about you?  What told you your little ones were ready for bigger lessons, and what were your first lessons?

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Causing a stir

It happened again when I was out with the baby yesterday.

“Oh my God, look at THAT”, I heard.  This time it was from across the street.  There have been whispers, looks of shock, gasps.  Once a woman stopped dead in her tracks passing the baby and me, and started smacking her husband on the arm saying “Do you see that??”

Granted, the babe and I were doing something most people have never seen before.  Many even consider it weird. But still, the reactions always astound me.  It’s just babywearing people!

Haha, bet you thought I was going to say breastfeeding, didn’t you?!  Guess what, so did I.  I’d heard the stories before I had Little Man and I was fully anticipating meeting resistance when I nursed in public.  But for whatever reason, I seem to cause much more of a stir when I babywear.

Lunch in the rockies, wearing my most revealing nursing top.

Mr Fair with Little Man in one of our attention-getting ring slings.


I’m not sure if I’m just lucky, or if it’s different up here in Canada, but the worst public reaction I’ve had to nursing was a teenager (clad in a mini skirt and halter top) who moved a few seats away from me when she noticed me nursing.  Then she started texting furiously, presumably about me.  The anti-nursing crap I’ve had to put up with has all come from family, not strangers.  From strangers I’ve had lots of smiles.  Often from little old men, actually.  And I don’t think they were creepy, staring-at-my-boobs type smiles.  Probably because there’s really no boob to see while I nurse.  I wear an F cup bra, but still, there’s not much see when you’re nursing.  Mostly though, people just don’t notice a nursing baby.  I’ve nursed in coffee shops, on benches in the middle of the mall and at busy conventions.  Once I had to nurse on the only bench in the Keele St subway station at rush hour.  Two hundred people walked past me, but as far as I could tell, only one noticed me nursing and she smiled and said “Ah, the little ones love the breast, don’t they?”

But babywearing seems to make a ruckus. Don’t get me wrong, the comments aren’t all bad, there’s just a lot of them.  Grannies, especially the Italian ones you find around here, exclaim about how cozy he looks under my winter coat.  Middle aged women lament that there was nothing like that when they had babies.  But more often people are incredulous: surely your back is killing you in that thing?  And I often get the ‘doesn’t he get bored facing you all the time?  You should at least point him outward’ comments.  Then there’s the whole ‘your baby is going to suffocate and DIE in there’ issue.

What really gets me though, is when people tell me I’m doing my baby a disservice by wearing him, then in the next breath compliment me for having a baby who seems to be so content all the time.  My Grandma does this.  She calls me almost daily to ask me if I’m still ‘hooking him up in that thing’ because she’s worried he’s being spoiled, or getting too hot, or going to end up bow-legged.  Then when we see her, she just can’t get over how confident and easy going he is or how well he was holding his head up at 6 weeks, or how he’s walking now at 10 months.  Now, I know that babywearing isn’t wholly responsible for his temperament, but I find it really hilarious that people see how well something is working but continue to insist that it isn’t working.

Oh well, I’ll keep causing a stir with my crazy babywearing and maybe the marketing will start to kick in and more people will give it a whirl and reap its benefits.

Do you babywear?  What are some of the reactions you’ve had?

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