Archive for July, 2011

Who let the toddler loose in the berry patch??


All those berries made me thirsty Mama


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I don’t think it will come as a shock that I’m not the cry-it-out kind of parent.  In fact, I’ve written before about my feelings on the issue.  We wouldn’t subject a physically limited adult to such treatment, so the fact that we routinely subject children to it is evidence that our society considers children as less than human.  And that offends me.

I would be lying though, if I said I haven’t had my low moments, with Little Man waking up for his sixth time that night, when I haven’t considered it.  I mean, who wouldn’t find the idea of endless, sleep-filled nights enticing.  Especially if it only takes a couple of hours of crying to get there, which is how it always seems to be presented.  Luckily for Little Man though, I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t work quite that easily, and the other day I got my proof.

We were at a party at a friend’s new house and he was giving everyone the tour.  Another acquaintance was there taking the tour at the same time.  He’s the kind of guy who makes me cringe just about every time he talks about parenting, so really I shouldn’t have been shocked… but I still was.

The new homeowner is expecting a baby in a couple of months, so he pointed out which room would be the nursery.  The cringe-inducing acquaintance had this to say:

“God, I’d hate to have the baby’s room right next to the living area like that.  I like that ours is upstairs so when he’s crying when we’re getting him to go to sleep we can just mute the baby monitor and we don’t have to listen to him.”

I just stared at him in disbelief, so he quickly added “Well, he doesn’t cry as much anymore.”

He doesn’t cry as much, but it’s still enough that you have to resort to muting him?  How much did he cry before??  And how long has this been going on???  And if you can’t stand listening to it, how do you think he feels doing it for goodness sake????

It was one of those conversations that, well, left me wanting to call child protective services, to be frank.  It was one of those conversations that made me wonder why people have babies, if they’re clearly not interested in parenting them.

Like I said before, I’ve had my moments too.  I can totally grasp why a parent might have to resort to something this drastic in a moment of exhaustion to preserve their own sanity and health.  But let’s clarify: this dad wasn’t talking about getting a few minutes of desperately needed sleep for himself.  He was talking about making sure his baby didn’t interrupt him while he was trying to watch American Idol, or some equally inane TV programming.

He also wasn’t talking about a couple of nights of concerted effort, after which the baby calmly (and presumably happily) goes to sleep with little or no parental intervention.  He was talking about a months-long routine of crying that is so extreme he – a grown adult with a range of stress-handling techniques at his disposal – can only cope with it by turning off the very device that was designed to alert him to the baby’s distress.

That’s a pretty ugly reality.  I wonder how popular the technique would be if more parents knew this was what it looked like before they started?

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There was never really a question in my mind as to what to feed my baby.  I’m a biologist, so it seemed a given to me to feed him in the biologically appropriate way.  I remember at one point early in my pregnancy realizing that I hadn’t actually discussed the topic with my husband, so I tried to casually run it by him.

“You know the baby’s going to be breastfed, right?” I asked.  He looked at me like I had two heads and for a split second I had the terrible thought that I’d have to start my breastfeeding relationship by convincing my husband.  But I’d forgotten he’s the son of a veterinarian, very well versed in how mammals operate and what he said a moment later was,

“Well how else would we feed it?”

The reasons for breastfeeding at the beginning were simple enough, but now that we’re in our second year, I find the reasons changing and I know they’ll continue to change the longer we nurse.

Breastfeeding in the Rockies

Year One – For Us

Like I said, in the beginning it was pretty straightforward.  This is the healthiest way to feed a baby.  This is the way human babies are designed to eat.

When I add into that the fact that breastfeeding (once you get the hang of it) is much easier than bottle feeding – no bottles to sterilize, no water to boil, no babies screaming while you wait for milk to warm up – I was sold.  Good for him, easy for me.  What more could a mom want?

Year Two – For Society

Now that he’s past his first birthday and eating lots of solid foods and nursing slightly less, I feel the reasons I continue changing.  Sure, breastmilk is still a wonderfully healthy food for him, but it’s no longer the only healthy food he’s capable of eating.  The health benefits, while still present, are much more subtle now.  But since he’s past his first birthday, I seem to have crossed some sort of societal cut-off line.  The good-for-yous that I used to get when people saw me nursing are quickly being outnumbered by gasps of he’s-still-nursing?  My grandmother actually leaned over him the other day while he was nursing, poking him and telling him to cut it out because he’s too big for that.

I made a decision last year after a particularly nasty reaction to my breastfeeding, that I would no longer cover or hide while doing it.  I realized that what had been said to me was unsettling enough that it might have harmed my breastfeeding relationship had I been less secure in it.  I also realized that since I have an incredible support network that many other mothers don’t, I can take that sort of abuse without being too badly shaken.  So I decided that I might as well suck up as much of that negativity as I can, in the hopes it saves a mom who is on less sure footing with breastfeeding.

It’s not that I want to offend or scandalize anyone.  It’s just that if someone sees me breastfeeding my walking, steak-eating toddler in public and they are offended or scandalized by it… well, then they won’t think it’s such a big deal the next time they see a mom nursing her newborn, will they?  They might just start to think it’s normal.

So this year, I must say, I do it as much for the sake of society as I do for the sake of my Little Man.

Year Three (and more) – For the Future

And what will next year bring?  More activism?  Maybe.  But it will definitely start to bring something else: a Little Man who isn’t quite so little anymore.  A Little Man, actually, who might just be old enough to hold onto some memories.  The longer I nurse him, and the longer I nurse any babies that might be in my future, the more likely it is that he’ll remember it.  It will become a part of our family narrative that he’ll take with him through life.  It will be totally and utterly normal to him when it’s time to have his own family and start his own family narrative.

The longer I nurse him, the more likely it will be that when his future wife looks at him and tentatively says she wants to breastfeed their baby, his response will be “Well, what else would we feed it?”

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