Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peacefully Parented Babies Grow Up to Be Smarter, Kinder Kids

By Maia Szalavitz
Read more from Szalavitz at Time Healthline



Over the last several decades, more and more research has suggested that experiences in early life — even prenatal life — can have a disproportionate influence on the development of personality and physical and mental health. Now another group of studies, led by Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez, confirms earlier work suggesting that children who get more positive touch and affection during infancy turn out to be kinder, more intelligent and to care more about others.

Narvaez, who will present her findings at a conference in early October, conducted three separate studies. The first compared parenting practices in the U.S. and China. Another followed a large sample of children of teen mothers who were involved in a child abuse–prevention project, and compared outcomes of various types of early parenting practices. The third examined how parents of 3-year-olds behaved toward their children.

All three studies suggested the same thing: children who are shown more affection early in life reap big benefits. Researchers found that kids who were held more by their parents, whose cries received quick responses in infancy and who were disciplined without corporal punishment were more empathic — that is, they were better able to understand the minds of others — later in life.

Although there were some differences between American and Chinese practices, "we found mostly parallels," Narvaez notes.

Given that highly affectionate parenting practices are similar to the practices anthropologists believe parents used during the thousands of years that humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies, it's likely that they are closely matched with what a developing baby's brain naturally expects.

Consider the way babies instinctively cry when put to sleep alone. In the early human environment, a child would never have slept more than an arm's reach from his parents or other caregivers. Lone sleeping may elicit a stress response in the baby because it's not the "safe" environment that the brain is programmed to expect. The fact that most babies can adjust to it anyway shows how flexible and "plastic" brain development is — but Narvaez' research suggests that meeting the brain's early expectations may have added benefits.

"What's been studied most is responsivity," she says, referring to the way parents respond to their babies and act accordingly, for example, noticing when they are about to cry and reacting appropriately to subtle positive and negative signals about what they want. "[Responsivity] is clearly linked with moral development. It helps foster an agreeable personality, early conscience development and greater prosocial behavior."

Even rat research confirms the importance of early nurture. Rat pups born to mothers that lick and nuzzle them — even rats that are put in the "foster" care of such mothers — are healthier, grow faster, and are better able to run mazes and interact socially than pups that are neglected. Rats raised by less affectionate moms have deficits in all these areas — but they do perform better in extremely stressful situations.

I summarize much of the latest research in empathy in the book Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered, co-authored with leading child psychiatrist Dr. Bruce Perry:
[W]hile we are born for love, we need to receive it in certain, specific ways in early life to benefit most from its mercy. We need to practice love as we grow through different social experiences to best be able to give it back in abundance. The brain becomes what it does most frequently. It is shaped every day by what we do — and what we don't do.

If we don't practice empathy, we can't become more empathetic. If we don't interact with people, we can't improve our connections to them. If we don't ease each other's stress through caring contact, we will all be increasingly distressed.
Of course, early life is certainly not the only influence on empathy: some of the most caring, altruistic people have suffered horribly neglectful and abusive childhoods. Children are, thankfully, quite resilient. But if you want to give your child an edge in these areas, lots of cuddles and responsive parenting certainly can't hurt.


Related Reading: 

Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential - and Endangered

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain

Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost

The Science of Parenting


Maia Szalavitz is a neuroscience journalist obsessed with addiction, love, evidence-based living, empathy, fertility and pretty much everything related to brain and behavior. Szalavitz is the co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered (Morrow, 2010) and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog (Basic, 2006), both with Dr. Bruce D. Perry. She is the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), the first book-length exposé of the “tough love” business. Szalavitz’s work has been published in TIME Magazine, the New York Times, Elle, Scientific American Mind, the Washington Post, New Scientist and Psychology Today, among many others. She is the winner of the American Psychological Associations Division 50 Award for Contributions to the Addictions.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

7 Breastfeeding Facts You Should Know

By Danelle Frisbie © 2010

Breastfeeding, while natural and normal to all mammals, can occasionally be a bit of a mystery to those who haven't looked into human lactation and the science behind it, or spend a lifetime growing up among nursing mothers and their babies. Counselors from the Australian Breastfeeding Association recently put together their top seven facts mothers should know to make breastfeeding easier. They stress the following facts for nursing moms:

1) For babies, breastfeeding is an instinct. Provided birth (during and after) is not interrupted or messed with (induction, drugs, surgery, pain) babies are born with the instinct to breastfeed, and they nurse easily when given the opportunity to follow their primal instincts.

2) For mothers, breastfeeding is a learned skill. It is normal to need plenty of help and for it to take a few weeks to feel confident breastfeeding. This is especially true if a mother has not grown up in a culture that values and empowers nursing mothers - one where she grew up witnessing a wide variety of nursing babies and their mothers. This nipple latch technique has helped many moms who need some extra skills to help baby latch properly (so that nursing is comfortable). Visiting with a skilled lactation consultant in person is also extremely valuable in perfecting latch early on in one's breastfeeding career.

3) Skin-to-skin contact helps babies learn to breastfeed more easily and supports the nursing relationship (and milk supply) hormonally. When a baby of any age is held skin-to-skin against his mother's chest he is more able to follow his instincts and attach well to the breast. This skin-to-skin contact influences mother's milk to let down, and for her supply to become hearty.

4) The cues that a baby is hungry include:

Sucking on her fingers
Sucking on his fist
Turning her head from side to side
Wiggling/squirming
Opening and closing her mouth (fishy lips)
Smacking his lips
Poking out her tongue

Crying is the last sign of late (advanced) hunger and babies attach to the breast more easily before they reach this desperate, hungry, crying stage. Imagine you are hungry but cannot do anything to get yourself the food you need... first, you ask for it by the means of communication you have. If your repeated requests are ignored, and you become famished, you eventually cry out in anguish, begging someone to pay attention to your need to be fed. Babies' stomachs are very tiny (especially in the first months of life) and while they fill up quickly, they also empty very quickly and baby will be genuinely hungry again soon. Learning your baby's cues and attending to them right away will increase breastfeeding success (and a happy, content baby).

5) Gently massaging the breast towards the nipple while the baby is feeding can increase how much milk the baby gets and help a sleepy baby get more milk. Running a finger or thumb lightly across the baby's chin or cheek will encourage the baby to take another gulp and consume more without falling asleep.

6) Every mother's breastmilk storage capacity is different and this can affect how often a baby breastfeeds or whether a baby will solely nurse on one side at a time, or take both breasts at each nursing session. A mother with a smaller storage capacity may find her baby breastfeeds more often and this is normal for her and her baby - it is not a sign that she doesn't make enough milk. Another mother may find that she has a large storage capacity and her baby nurses less often and takes in more at one time - this is normal for her and her baby. All mothers can increase milk supply by fully emptying the breasts more often. Adjustments in milk supply are easily made in the first 30 days. After that time, it becomes much more difficult, so during the first month post-birth it is essential to nurse on cue and pump extra if you wish to stock up a frozen supply for down the road (or plan to return to work).

7) Emptying the breast is what sends the message to a mother's body to make more milk, so the more often a baby feeds (or the more often the mother pumps) the more milk will be made. It is a matter of basic supply and demand. The body makes more when it is told that it needs more (through frequent use and being emptied). If supplements are used (formula or other solid foods) then nursing/pumping decreases, telling the body that not as much milk is needed - and supply drops. This is the reason supplementing (when a mother doesn't think she has enough milk) is counterproductive and actually leads to a drop in milk supply - the very thing she may have been worried about to begin with. If a mother is pumping, she should strive to fully empty the breasts (in the early months of breastfeeding or anytime she wishes to increase supply). This means to pump for 3 minutes after the very last drop of milk comes out, or for 25 minutes - whichever comes first.

For additional information on milk supply see resources at the bottom of this article: Lactation Cookies: Increasing Milk Supply

For helpful information on breastfeeding, see books, websites, and articles for nursing moms at Breastfeeding Resources


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Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Spanking is Never Okay

By Nestor Lopez-Duran, Ph.D.
Originally published at Child Psych. At Peaceful Parenting with permission.



The most recent issue of the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics included a report on the use of physical violence as a form of discipline (aka “spanking”) and its relation to intimate partner violence. The study examined a large sample of close to 2,000 families participating in a nationally representative study of families across the USA. The authors were interested in examining whether the use of spanking in 3 year-old children was associated with physical violence between the parents.

The results were not surprising:

1. 65% of 3 year old children were spanked at least once by their parents during the previous month.

2. The odds of using physical punishment doubled in households where parents used aggression against each other. This is not surprising since physical punishment is a form of interpersonal aggression.

3. Maternal stress significantly increased the odds of using physical punishment. This is also not surprising since physical punishment is more likely to be used by parents who are angry.

4. Maternal depression significantly increased the odds of using physical punishment.

5. The odds of using physical punishment were not associated with maternal education, but when the father had a college degree both the father and the mother were significantly less likely to use physical punishment. I am curious to hear my readers’ thoughts on this interesting finding.

The authors concluded (CP = Corporal Punishment; IPAV = Intimate Partner Violence):
Despite American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations against the use of CP, CP use remains common in the United States. CP prevention efforts should carefully consider assumptions made about patterns of co-occurring aggression in families, given that adult victims of IPAV, including even minor, non physical aggression between parents, have increased odds of using CP with their children.
Yes, the American Academy of Pediatrics unequivocally recommends against the use of aggression as a discipline method. Why? Because the research on physical punishment is clear: it is unnecessary and is associated with a long list of NEGATIVE consequences. For example, although proponents of “spanking” argue that if you don’t spank, the child will not learn to behave properly, the research actually suggests the opposite. Children who are spanked, when compared to their non-spanked peers, are, among many others:

1. more likely to use aggression against their peers
2. less likely to internalize rules
3. more likely to engage in criminal activity during adolescence
4. more likely to engage in domestic abuse as adults
5. more likely to suffer from depression
and on and on and on.

For those who want to read more about the science behind the negative effects of corporal punishment, visit the research library of Project No Spank; http://nospank.net/resrch.htm

I unequivocally oppose the use of violence towards children as a discipline method for two reasons. The first is explained above. The scientific research shows that physical punishment does not work in the long run, is associated with an increased risk for many behavioral and psychological problems, and is simply unnecessary given that we have non-violent discipline techniques that are very effective. But I also oppose violence towards children on philosophical grounds.

Although I never talk about philosophy (and especially my views) on Child Psych, this time I want to share them with you. I am a secular humanist, and as a humanist I oppose interpersonal violence except in cases of self defense. I view spanking as a culturally accepted violent act towards a child. We use the words “spanking” or “corporal punishment” as euphemisms so that we don’t confront the reality of the act: when a parent spanks a child the parent is physically assaulting the child. Why do we accept such aggression when we oppose other forms of interpersonal violence? For example, in western societies we oppose marital violence. We believe that there is no excuse that could justify a husband for hitting a wife. A husband can’t argue that he hit his wife because the wife was “misbehaving,” or that it was “just one hit,” or that he used “an open hand,” or that the hit “didn’t leave any marks,” etc. Under all circumstances, we oppose the assault of a wife by her husband. We do not accept the premise that it is “the husband’s right” to hit his wife. Yet, our culture accepts the premise that “it is a parent’s right” to hit his/her child. We allow the use of violence against young children under the excuse that such aggression is “culturally accepted” or even “necessary” to teach the “child a lesson.” But I ask, what lesson? That we can use violence to achieve our goals? That it is acceptable to hit people when they don’t do what we want? That hitting those who can’t defend themselves is okay as long as you are teaching them a lesson?

Children are not possessions. Children are, albeit small in size, real human beings who have the right to live in an environment where they are safe from being physically assaulted. Being free of physical harm is the most basic human right, and children should not be exempt from it.

From a scientific and humanistic perspective, there is no valid argument that justifies the use of violence towards children in the name of discipline. It is unnecessary, ineffective, and leads to many negative consequences. My explicit recommendation to all parents is: Never use violence to correct a misbehavior or to teach your child a lesson.

Three final points. Please don’t confuse a position against spanking with being “permissive.” You can be very strict without the use of violence. You can provide structure, rules, limits and consequences, without being violent towards your child. See below for alternatives to spanking.

Second, be wary of the “my grandma smoked till she was 100″ excuse. That is, some people justify spanking, or even refuse to believe valid science, because “I was spanked as a kid and I’m okay.” That would be the same as believing that there is no association between smoking and cancer because “my grandma smoked till she was 100 and didn’t die from it.” Smoking increases the probability that you will get cancer, even though some people who smoke will be okay. Likewise, spanking increases the probability of a laundry list of negative outcomes, even though some people who are hit as children will be okay in the long run.

Finally, some have argued that spanking is OK in certain cultures as long as you provide nurturance and love. It is true that some studies have shown that high levels of maternal support can reduce the negative consequences of physical punishment. But, from a humanistic perspective, I find the argument that “it is okay to hit my child if I provide love” as invalid as a husband saying “it is okay to hit my wife if I show her that I love her.”


Notes:

Taylor, C., Lee, S., Guterman, N., & Rice, J. (2010). Use of Spanking for 3-Year-Old Children and Associated Intimate Partner Aggression or Violence. PEDIATRICS, 126 (3), 415-424 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-0314



Alternatives to Spanking and Related Reading:

Gentle Discipline Resource Collection

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain [book]

The Science of Parenting: How today's brain research can help you raise healthy, emotionally balanced children [book]

The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost [book]

Our Babies, Ourselves [book]

The No Spanking Page alternative ideas to spanking

Why Do We Spank Our Babies? 

Infant Pain Impacts Adult Sensitivity

Early Spanking Increases Toddler Aggression, Lowers IQ
  
Spanking Decreases Intelligence? 

Project No Spank 

Dr Sears: 10 Reasons Not to Hit Your Child


Aware Parenting

Natural Child / Jan Hunt


Love Our Children USA

Support NY Rep Carolyn McCathy on her efforts to ban physical punishment in US schools.
http://www.thehittingstopshere.com/







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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Knowing Better

By Megan Robinson © 2010
Read more from Robinson at Meg-isms

photo of my oldest son and I by Sandi Heinrich Photography


I have something to say, and it's that I am 100%, gut-wrenchingly, without a doubt, against genital mutilation - otherwise known as circumcision.

This wasn't always the case.

My husband is circumcised, and I never really gave it any thought until my second son was born in late 2008. Our first son was a victim of our ignorance. Sadly and regretfully, he is circumcised. We didn't know any better at the time. We thought it was what we were supposed to do. So that he could "look like his daddy," because it was supposedly cleaner and easier to care for, because if you didn't you were weird, or as one person told me, "It's gross if you don't."

When my first son was born in 2004 we didn't have great internet access to do research. I was also only 25 and none of my friends had kids at the time. I didn't have anyone to teach me or to guide me.

So, if you are wondering why I care so much, and why I am writing about issues like this - it's because I wish I had had someone in my life 6 years ago who would have told me what a mistake I was about to make. Someone to tell me that all of my beliefs and feelings about circumcision were false. Someone to lead me to studies and to the knowledge I would need to make a different choice.

My husband and I made a mistake and we are regretful, but with all of our pain we want to make a difference for other parents and baby boys.

Here are some facts about circumcision that we find worth noting:

1) No health organization in the WORLD recommends the procedure.

2) It is the amputation of a completely normal body part, much like the amputation of a toe or the outer ear.

3) There are many myths surrounding circumcision - examples being that it somehow helps to prevent some diseases and cancers, or that it makes the penis more hygienic.

4) Circumcision is a huge money maker for the medical industry. Money that is hard to give up even though the AAP and WHO have made statements saying that there is no reason to do the procedure.

5) This procedure is highly painful for infants. Babies feel pain at a much greater level than adults. Even though anesthesia is sometimes used, it is never substantial enough to keep the infant from feeling the excruciating pain. Many medical workers or parents will claim that their baby boy slept through the procedure or was calm. This is because they enter a semi-comatose state in order to survive the excessive pain (similar to how you or I might lapse into a coma if someone started cutting our genitals apart). After the procedure baby boys are withdrawn and unsettled. This often interferes with sleep, breastfeeding and bonding. Circumcised baby boys often won't look in their mothers eyes after the procedure. There are studies showing that this kind of trauma in an infant can have LIFE LONG implications!

6) The foreskin has a purpose! It protects the glans (head) from abrasion (which if it is exposed causes a decrease in sensation over the years because of the formation of a callus). It also excretes essential fluids as it is a mucous membrane. It protects the urinary tract from infection and guards against sexually transmitted diseases.

7) The foreskin plays a role in an adult males partner's life too. Many defensive men (and women) will say they are just fine without their foreskin. But one can also be just fine without a finger, arm, toe, etc.

8) There are many risks that go along with the procedure such as hemorrhage, infection, damage to the glans, tightness of the skin on the shaft (painful erection), scarring, and death. Circumcision has a complication rate of 1 in 500 and a death rate of 1 in 500,000. I believe the numbers are along the lines of 200-300 baby boys dying per year from the procedure. These numbers are higher in Africa.

9) Circumcision is a violation of human rights. Thus why it is called genital mutilation. It is the amputation of a human being's body part without their consent.

10) Just because daddy is circumcised doesn't mean baby needs to be too. One of my dear friends was counseling a couple who were expecting their first baby boy any day. The couple didn't really want to cut their son but were distressed that baby should look like his daddy. My friend brought up a good point. She said, "So, dad, if you were missing an arm, would you cut off baby's arm so he would look like you?" This was the ultimate deciding factor for this couple. Of course they wouldn't do this! Every child is unique and needs to be treated as such. If daddy really wishes to 'match' his son, he can consider restoration.

11) "The US has the highest rate of medically unnecessary, non-therapeutic infant circumcision in the world - and yet the HIV infection rate in North America is twice the rate in Europe, where circumcision rates are low." (The Truth about Circumcision and HIV by Gussie Fauntleroy; Doctors Reject Circumcision as HIV Prevention). The only way to protect oneself against as HIV is abstinence, monogamy, barriers, no IV drug/shared needle use and sterile surgical instruments.

I also should say that I understand that there are religious belief issues surrounding circumcision and it is never my intention to insult anyone's religion. I am touching on two religions, Judaism, because I was attacked by someone whose partner is Jewish and they were offended by our stance on the procedure, and the LDS church, because my husband was raised Mormon.

Many Jewish families are choosing not to do the procedure to their baby boys. Dr. Mark Reiss, a retired Jewish physician states, "Growing numbers of American Jews are now leaving their sons intact as they view circumcision as a part of Jewish law that they can no longer accept." There are many Jewish couples that are very active in their religions that now speak out against the procedure and refuse to let it happen to their children. Instead, some are choosing to do a "Brit Shalom" ceremony which translates as "Covenant of Peace" instead of a "Brit Milah" which translates as "Covenant of Blood."

The LDS church has asked that circumcision be done away with. I take this excerpt from "The Book of Mormon on Circumcision" and I encourage you to read the full article.
In Moroni 8:8 of The Book of Mormon, Christ, following his death and resurrection, speaks to the people of the western hemisphere, the Nephites and Lamanites. He says, "Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God, I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them, and the law of circumcision is done away in me.
To quote my husband, "In the Mormon faith, it is taught that the body is a temple and is not to be marked, so much so that many women in the faith refuse to pierce their ears. Why, then, would it be okay to permanently alter the body of an infant male, who was created in God's own image? Especially when there is scripture that states clearly that it is no longer a ritual of significance?"

Someday we will apologize to our first born son and explain to him what was done to him and why. My deepest hope is that he forgives us for making a decision about his body that was not ours to make.

I will not stop fighting for the end of circumcision. I cannot stand by and let other misguided or misinformed parents make the same mistake we made. The pain I feel is tremendous and I am going to need therapy (yes, seriously) to overcome my feelings of remorse. If I can prevent this from happening to other sweet mamas and baby boys, I will. This is not an attack on those that have chosen to do the procedure; after all, I fall into this category. All one needs to do is to watch a circumcision being done, read what it really is, and how it's done, and what it does to a baby's brain. Once one does this, I highly doubt they would let it be done to their sweet child.

I am happy and proud to say that our second son is intact. When he was born we still didn't know exactly what circumcision was, but we knew it didn't feel right. I am so glad we made the decision not to cut him by following our primal instincts. And now that we know the truth about circumcision, we are even more thankful that we left his body whole.

If you would like a circumcision information pack sent to you, I will gladly pay to have one sent. It contains tons of great information to read and also comes with videos to watch. All you have to do is send me a message (InHonorofGavin@gmail.com) and I will take care of it.

I mentioned being informed earlier in this post. I encourage you to visit this page as there are many excellent articles on circumcision, among other peaceful parenting ideas.

And finally, I must thank those of you who are making a difference and standing up against this horrid procedure. I wish I could do more, I wish I could reach farther. I am honored to know that so many of you feel the same and are making a difference for our baby boys, their parents and their future partners.

"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better."
~ Maya Angelou


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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

La Separación de la Madre y el Niño

By Dr. George Wootan, M.D.
Autor de Tome el Control de la Salud de su Hijo
[Read this article in English here]


Voy a meterme en un tema espinoso, un tema que me trae casi tantos problemas como mis ideas sobre el destete: la separación de la madre y el niño. Imagine por un momento que está en el mercado con su niña de seis meses. Ella comienza a hacer ruiditos porque tiene hambre, y usted la mira y le dice con confianza, “Te alimentaré en media hora, cuando lleguemos a casa.” ¿Ella sonreirá y esperará pacientemente hasta que usted termine de hacer las compras? ¡Por supuesto que no! Desde el punto de vista de su bebé, o hay comida ahora, o no hay comida en el mundo. ¡La hambruna ha atacado allí mismo en medio del mercado!

Los bebés pequeños y los que ya gatean, hasta más o menos la edad de tres años (36 meses), tienen muy poca idea del tiempo. Para ellos, solamente hay dos tiempos: ahora o nunca. Decirle a un bebé que Mamá regresará en una hora o a las 5 de la tarde, es esencialmente lo mismo que decirle que Mamá se fue para siempre, porque ella no tiene idea de lo que significan esos tiempos.

Permítanme presentar la idea de que la necesidad de la madre es tan fuerte en un bebé como la necesidad de comida, y que no hay substituto para una madre bien cercana. Cuando está cansado, dolorido o molesto, necesita de su madre para tener confort y seguridad. Es verdad, no necesita a Mamá todo el tiempo, pero cuando la necesita, la necesita ahora. Si se lastima la rodilla, o si lastiman sus sentimientos, no puede poner su necesidad en espera por dos horas hasta que Mamá llegue a casa, y la niñera – o incluso Papá – simplemente no servirán tan bien como si Mamá estuviera allí.

De modo que sí, esto es lo que estoy diciendo: Una madre no debería dejar a su niño por un tiempo extenso hasta aproximadamente los tres años, cuando ya ha desarrollado alguna idea del tiempo. Sabrán que esto ha comenzado a suceder cuando entienda lo que significan “ayer”, “mañana” y “esta tarde”, y cuando su niño empiece a para más tiempo lejos suyo voluntariamente.

Por supuesto, si usted sabe que su niña siempre duerme a ciertas horas, puede dejarla brevemente con alguien mientras duerme la siesta. Si hace esto, sin embargo, la niñera debe ser alguien a quien ella conozca bien, y no hay garantías de que no vaya a elegir este día para alterar su rutina y despertarse mientras usted no está. Esto podría ser traumático para ella si la persona es alguien que conoce poco, y más aún si la niñera es una extraña. Es importante que usted haga el esfuerzo de estar disponible para ella cuando está despierta y puede necesitarla.

Entiendo que no separar al niño de su madre durante los primeros tres años de vida puede ser difícil. Mantener esto presupone que la familia está financieramente segura aún sin el salario de la madre. Y, desafortunadamente, esto no es una realidad para alguna gente. Yo no argumentaría que una madre que debe trabajar para mantener a su familia está haciendo menos que lo mejor posible para sus hijos por salir a trabajar. Sin embargo, creo que muchas madres vuelven al trabajo no por necesidad, sino por que ellas (o sus esposos) desean mantener el nivel de vida de dos salarios al que se han acostumbrado. Esos padres necesitan hacer un poco de introspección sobre lo que realmente necesitan, y no sacrificar los mejores intereses de su niño.

Si debe dejar a su niño por varias horas por día, hay algunas cosas que puede intentar hacer para compensar la separación. Una de ellas es, por supuesto, darle el pecho hasta que el niño mismo desee el destete. Otra es compartir el sueño con el niño hasta que él decida que está listo para su propia cama. Si debe pasar 8 horas lejos de su niño, haga un esfuerzo por permanecer las 16 horas restantes en contacto físico cercano. Este esfuerzo extra ayudará mucho a que él se sienta seguro y desarrolle un apego saludable hacia usted.

En nuestra familia hemos notado que muchos de los eventos que requerirían que dejemos a nuestro bebé en casa son eventos que no nos importa especialmente dejar de lado. También hemos descubierto que dado que nuestros niños ven sus necesidades atendidas con rapidez, son felices y se sienten seguros, y podemos llevarlos a la mayoría de los eventos sociales. No intento decir que nunca vaya a toparse con problemas, pero generalmente, encontrará que si se ocupa de las necesidades inmediatas de su niño sosteniéndolo, dándole el pecho y amándolo, será un placer que tenerlo alrededor.



George Wootan, M.D. es un medico familiar matriculado, y asociado médico de la Liga Internacional La Leche. Él y su esposa, Pat, son padres de once niños y abuelos de veintiuno. El Dr. Wootan ha practicado medicina por 33 años, enfocándose en pediatría, medicina familiar, cuidados geriátricos y enfermedades crónicas. Da conferencias a nivel nacional sobre los temas de salud infantil, envejecimiento saludable, nutrición, bienestar y Medicina Funcional.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Umbilical Cord

By Kathy Petersen
posted with author's permission
read more from Petersen at: Woman to Woman Childbirth Education and here on Facebook


The umbilical cord is what connects the baby to the mother. Soon after conception, the baby (embryo may be the “correct” term for this stage of development) burrows into the lush uterine lining, and part of the embryo becomes the placenta while the rest of it becomes the baby, inside the amniotic sac. The placenta grows along with the baby, and although the mother’s and baby’s blood never mix, the placenta is where the oxygen and waste exchange happens–the mother’s circulatory system gives the baby oxygen and nutrients while taking away the baby’s carbon dioxide and waste.

Generally, there are no problems with this wonderful system; but occasionally, the placenta does not grow very big, or the umbilical cord can develop a knot, or wrap around the baby. Many home-birthing midwives will testify that maternal nutrition plays a vital role in a well-developed placenta, which only makes sense - "you are what you eat." Check out The Brewer Diet for more information on a healthful diet.

The umbilical cord can develop a knot if the baby moves through a loop in the umbilical cord. This happens very early in pregnancy, when the baby has ample room in the womb for these free movements; later, the baby is much more squished in the confines of the uterus. Most of the time, a knot is not a problem, but a “true knot” can potentially be so tight that it compromises blood flow through the umbilical cord to the baby. This later danger is very rare, and usually cannot be known before birth.

a "true knot"

Probably what most people worry about when it comes to umbilical cords is that they will be wrapped around the baby’s neck. This is called a “nuchal” cord (from the Latin word for “neck”). This is much more common, occurring in up to 25% of all births, but only rarely causes problems. My first son, for example, had the cord wrapped around his neck once, and the midwife couldn’t get it off before his body was fully born, but the cord was kept intact and my baby had no problems whatsoever. In fact, I did not even know it had happened until a few years later when I was looking through my copy of the birth records. What might cause problems is if the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck and cuts off or diminishes circulation to the baby’s brain either in utero or as the baby is being born. But again, this is rare.

The typical response to a nuchal cord is to unloop it from the baby’s neck after the head is born and prior to full birth if at all possible; and if it’s too tight, to cut the cord and unwind it. (The cord will be clamped in two places, and the cut will be made between, to minimize blood loss to the baby, and mess on the floor from the placenta side of the cord.) Some birth attendants will instead “somersault” the baby out of the birth canal, keeping the baby’s head close to the mother’s body. This allows the baby to be born while still keeping the cord intact (occasionally, a nuchal cord might prevent the baby from coming out because it makes the cord too short). With the baby fully out, the cord can then be unwound from the baby’s neck or body, thus allowing the full amount of oxygen that sustained the baby inside to keep coming to the baby on the outside, while he makes his transition to breathing.

It may be possible to identify a nuchal cord with ultrasound, but there are some considerations you should have.

First, most nuchal cords do not cause problems. There are fetal tests that can be done if a nuchal cord is suspected or known that can reassure you as to fetal well-being (including you doing “kick-counts” at home to make sure your baby is moving adequately).

Second, ultrasound is not 100% reliable, and you have to judge the benefits vs. risks of this or any other procedure.

And finally, is a story one of my friends shared with me (she is a doula at a birth center, as well as childbirth educator). A couple discovered via ultrasound that their baby had a nuchal cord (after the woman was at term, but prior to onset of labor). The woman was terrified of the baby strangling herself, so she decided to have a C-section right then. The birth center offered to keep her overnight and continue to monitor the baby, and let her see that the baby was just fine, but she was too scared to accept. Within a couple of hours, she had had the C-section, and the doctor said there was no nuchal cord.

Babies move in utero; they twist and turn. It is easily understandable that the baby could wrap herself up in the cord, and then unwrap herself just as easily.



Related Information:

Nuchal Cord Midwifery Files

Umbilical Cord Around Baby's Neck: Dangerous or Not?

Neonatal Resuscitation: Life that Failed

Gloria Lemay: Cord Around the Neck

Unwrapping a Nuchal Cord [video]

Lotus Birth

In this video on pregnancy myths, OB/GYN Hakakha reminds parents (in the 7th section of this video) that the umbilical cord is often around a baby's neck while inutero and at birth and it is very rarely a cause for concern.





The Truth About Epidurals

By Carol Gray
posted with author's permission
read more from Gray at: CarolGray.com



First a word or two about birth physiology: Labor is almost universally uncomfortable for mothers, and often painful for babies. One of the ways we cope with pain is to produce beta-endorphin. Beta-endorphin is an opiate-like brain chemical - the same one responsible for the so-called "runner’s high." It reduces pain and increases good feelings.

In a typical labor, pain increases over time. As the pain increases, the production of beta-endorphin also increases. Mothers and babies both produce beta-endorphin. The beta-endorphin produced by mother also passes on to baby through the placenta.

At the moment of birth, the pain of labor suddenly and dramatically decreases for the mother. Mothers and babies are flooded with endorphins that, with little to no pain, cause euphoria.

We know that endorphins create a state of dependence. After a medically undisturbed birth mom and baby will repeatedly seek to recreate that initial high of birth euphoria with close skin to skin contact. We know that babies need this contact to survive and develop normally.

Sometimes babies are hurt in the birth process. It’s obvious when they come out with swelling, bruises or broken bones. Sometimes they appear frightened or shocked. In that moment they are supposed to rely on an extra boost of endorphins from their mothers.

The Truth: Mothers who have epidurals typically experience little to no pain in their labors. If mothers experience little to no pain, they produce little to no beta-endorphin. When mothers produce little to no beta-endorphin, their babies have more painful births. This pain could be extreme. This pain can interfere with bonding. There is no state of euphoria for mom or baby. We have no idea what the lifetime effects of this could be.


Carol Gray, Midwife, LMT, practices and teaches Craniosacral Therapy for infants and mamas. She also attends home births in Portland, Oregon.


For information on the subject of infant pain in labor and birth, and gentle birth, see:

Birth As We Know It [video]

Epidurals: Risks and Concerns for Mother & Baby


Primal Health

Birth and Breastfeeding

The Scientification of Love


Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering

Gentle Birth Choices

Birth Reborn

Infant Pain Impacts Adult Sensitivity [article]

Birth From Baby's Perspective [article]


~~~~

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hawaii Mother and Creator of ERGO Baby Carrier Sells Company for $91 Million

By Danelle Frisbie

Karin Frost demonstrates the ERGO Baby Carrier she developed in 2002. She's still able to use it with her son, Keala Kaj, age 5.

The ERGO Baby Carrier is widely popular among peaceful parenting moms and dads. In fact, it is one of the most commonly seen babywearing devices in our "Real Men Wear Babies" album, along with the Moby Wrap and various woven wraps, and the ERGO is especially loved by those with older/heavier/taller babies who need adequate hip support. We have one at our house, and enjoy it despite the fact that our 40lb two year old refuses to be worn on our backs. ERGO can be used as a front and side/hip carry as well.

ERGO sells its carriers and products through 700 retail stores and websites in about 20 countries. There is the original ERGO (which comes in an assortment of wonderful colors), the Sport ERGO, the Performance ERGO, and the organic ERGO. The carriers range in price from $105 to $148.

ERGO wasn't always a multi million dollar baby carrier. In fact, it was created in Maui just 8 years ago by a new mother, Karin Frost. Living out of her van and taking showers at the beach, Frost probably did not expect to one day have a creation worth so much. Her story reminds me a bit of Hygia Halfmoon's experiences when, leaving an unhealthy relationship, Halfmoon became a newly single mom and decided she wasn't going to give up mothering her children. She got creative and started making making her Cozy Cradle Babysling to support herself and her children. Each of these mothers has a unique tale of primal mothering in a modern world.

Frost, who is now 49, constructed her carrier in 2002, also as a new mom. The carrier quickly caught on with friends, and in 2003 she founded "ERGO Baby" to make the back-pack style carrier for others. She writes about when her son was just a few days old, "My strong desire to pick up [my son] and hold him close to my heart dominated any other need. My mothering instinct to keep him safe, secure and content has always been my driving force, and when I started ERGObaby, my intention was to create a product line that would promote and enhance the ability of parents to safely and comfortably keep their babies close to them as often as possible."

In 2007 Parenting Magazine named the ERGO Baby Carrier one of its Top 20 products in the past 20 years. This catapulted ERGO to the top of the line and Frost set up manufacturing in China. (Halfmoon still custom makes and distributes her Cozy Cradle Babysling to mothers' specific measurements, has a heart for providing slings to teen moms, and is celebrating 25 years of sling making this month).

Frost, in a slightly different turn of events, has agreed to sell 84% of the Pukalani-based company she started to a Connecticut firm that invests in mid-size businesses with attractive growth prospects. The pricetag? $91 million. Not bad for an 8 year business that Frost started from her home as a mom striving to make ends meet.

Compass Diversified Holdings publicly announced that it is paying Frost a combination of cash, Compass stock and assumption of personal debt totaling $91 million. The shares of Compass stock are worth $6.9 million. The cash and debt figures were not disclosed.

Frost notes that, "Eight years later, my research into the science behind babywearing has affirmed my mothering instincts. I know, beyond a doubt, that bonding with and nurturing our babies from infancy with the help of babywearing is absolutely the best way."

And so it is.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wrongful Circumcision of Baby Mario: Court Documents

Vera Delgado with son, Mario, speaks to Univision at the Genital Integrity Demonstration for Baby Mario on Friday, September 17 outside South Miami Hospital. Thank you to As Nature Intended for this photo.


The following is the court document filed on Monday, September 13 by Spencer Aronfeld, Esq., on behalf of Vera Delgado. Delgado's son, Mario Viera, was taken from the NICU and circumcised against his will and without the consent of his mother at South Miami Hospital on August 2nd, 2010. For information on Baby Mario's case and how to protect your son, see more of the story and interviews here.

COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO VIERA, a minor,
by and through undersigned counsel, sue the Defendants, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D. and SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, and would allege as follows:

1. This is an action for personal injury damages, with damages in excess of the minimum jurisdictional limits of this Honorable Court, to-wit: Fifteen Thousand and no/IOO ($15,000.00) Dollars, exclusive of costs and interest.

2. At all times material to hereto, the Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, was and is a resident of Miami-Dade County, Florida, and is the parent and natural guardian of Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor, is otherwise sui juris.

3. Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, is the minor child of Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, and is a resident of Miami-Dade County, Florida.

4. At all times material hereto, Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., individually and/or as an agent, apparent agent or employee of herself, was and is a licensed medical doctor under the laws of the State of Florida, authorized to provide health care services to individuals such as the Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor, in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

5. At all time material hereto, Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, Inc., was and is a licensed hospital under the laws of the State of Florida, authorized to provide health caie services to individuals such as Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor, in Miami-Dade County, Florida

FACTS

6. At all times material to this Complaint, the Defendants had the responsibility to provide
medical care and treatment of the Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor.

7. On or about July 24, 2010 Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, gave birth to MARIO VIERA, a minor, at SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC. and admitted into its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit due to birth related complications.

8. Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO VIERA, a minor, repeatedly informed Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., its staff and agents that she did not want or authorize the Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor, to be circumcised.

9. On or about August 2, 2010, while Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a minor, was still under the care of Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.'S, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Defendants, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., nurses and agents of Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., and without consent performed an unauthorized amputation of the foreskin of his penis.

COUNT I - ASSAULT AND BATTERY BY MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D.

Plaintiff adopts and realleges the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 9 as though fully
set forth herein.

10. On or about August 2, 2010, at the hospital operated by Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., the Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., with force and against the consent of Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO VIERA, a minor, performed an unauthorized amputation of the foreskin of his penis.

11. The unauthorized amputation of the foreskin of his penis was committed by the Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., while she performed the medical procedure on the Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, in furtherance of her duties as an employee, servant, staff member and/or agent of the Defendant soum MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.

12. As a result of these wrongful and malicious acts of Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO VIERA, a minor, has suffered greatly in mind and body and will continue to suffer damages.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO VIERA, a minor, demands judgment for damages against the Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., and such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

COUNT II - PREMISES LIABILITY AGAINST SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.

Plaintiff adopts and realleges the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 12 as though fully set forth herein.

13. On or about August 2, 2010, the Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.,
operated a hospital providing Neonatal care in Miami-Dade County, Florida.

14. On that date, Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, was a patient at the hospital and therefore on the premises lawfully.

15. At all times relevant the Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., owed a duty to protect the Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, and is responsible for any and all injuries sustained on its premises to patients in its care.

16. At all times material hereto, the Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., breached its duty by failing to warn Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, or by allowing a dangerous condition on the premises, to-wit, their employee and/or agent Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D., to perform an unauthorized surgical procedure without consent on Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR.

17. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.'S, negligence, Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, suffered bodily injury that is permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment. The losses are either permanent or continuing and Plaintiff will suffer the losses in the future.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, VERA DELGADO, as parent and natural guardian of MARIO
VIERA, a minor, demands judgment for damages against the Defendants SOUTH MIAMI
HOSPITAL, INC., and for such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

COUNT III - NEGLIGENT HIRING, TRAINING, RETENTION AND SUPERVISION AGAINST DEFENDANT SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.

Plaintiff adopts and realleges the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 through 17 as though fully set forth herein.

18. At all times relevant hereto the Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., did employ agents, employees, officers, staff, administrators, representatives, servants and maintenance personnel, and said Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., exercised jurisdiction and control over the procedures which said agents, employees, officers, staff administrators, representatives, servants and maintenance personal had the privilege to perform. Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., determined the qualifications and lack of qualifications of said personnel relating to those duties which were devised by said Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., for the agents, employees, officers, staff, administrators, representatives, servants and maintenance personnel.

19. At all times relevant, the Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., negligently
hired, trained, supervised and/or retained its employee, servant, staff member or agent, who at the time of the incident herein were on staff to provide medical care and assistance to Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, a MINOR.

20. That the Defendant, MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D, with the assistance of employees and agents of Defendant South MH performed an unauthorized surgical procedure on Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, to wit: the amputation of the foreskin of his penis.

21. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant, SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC.'S,
negligence, Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, suffered bodily injury that is permanent within a reasonable degree of medical probability and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment. The losses are either permanent or continuing and Plaintiff will suffer the losses in the future.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff, MARIO VIERA, A MINOR, demands judgment for damages against the Defendant SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL, INC., and for such other and further relief as this court deems just and proper.

DATED: this 13th day of September 2010.

ARONFELD TRIAL LAWYERS
Attorneys for Plaintiff
3132 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
Telephone: (305) 441-0440
Facsimile: (305) 441-0198

Spencer Marc Aronfeld, Esq.
Fla. Bar No.: 0905161

MARY JEAN PAZOS, M.D


newborn onesies available here
to help protect boys born in U.S. hospitals
(various colors available)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Natural Weaning

Excerpted with permission from the excellent book, Mothering Your Nursing Toddler, by Norma Jane Bumgarner and published by La Leche League International. Visit the Mothering Your Nursing Toddler website here, or purchase Bumgarner's book on Amazon.



The Child under Three
 
Because of the good results, both for their children and for themselves, parents are becoming more comfortable with allowing nursing to take its course and waiting for weaning to occur on its own. Some people choose such an approach because it makes the most sense to them, as did the mother who writes, "She hasn't shown any signs of weaning, and I'm not going to push it. Why put a strain into a so-far carefree experience? I believe it should end as it started – naturally." Others, like one mother of six, have more practical reasons. "She'll have to wean herself," she says. "I don't have the time to worry about it, and it doesn't matter." For these reasons and others, more children these days have the good fortune to be born into families in which they do not have to give up nursing in anyone's time but their own.

A few children, of course, come to a spontaneous finish to their nursing before their second birthday. For the few who leave behind this part of their babyhood very early it will be in some other behavior that parents will likely see signs of their immaturity for some time yet. They will continue to need babying, but they will need it in other ways.

One mother, disappointed when her fourteen-month-old weaned, realizes now that weaning came from her approach to breastfeeding, not an active weaning campaign. She emphasized solids, offered other food before nursing once her child was eating solids, and did not nurse her child just for comfort. As this mother found out, children who start taking other foods and liquids before four to six months may come to depend upon these foods for most of their nourishment in the second half of their first year, a time when most nurslings still thrive for the most part on mother's milk. Often, children who take in a great deal of food and liquid other than mother's milk at six to twelve months tend to lose interest in nursing sooner than they might have otherwise. They will wean from the breast and cling to other objects for comfort.

Some children seem less interested in nursing and become easily distracted sometime between nine and fourteen months of age. Many advisers suggest that you take advantage of your child's decreased interest, if in fact her interest does show a decrease, to initiate weaning. If you don't want to nurse a toddler, this may be the least traumatic weaning time there will be for at least two or three years. But if you expect to find it easier to care for your child if she continues nursing, do not hesitate to remind her to nurse a few times daily until she outgrows this phase. If you do not want to wean, the time around nine months, a little later sometimes, may be a sort of danger time in which you may want to make sure your nursing relationship is not interrupted or disturbed.

Most children nurse without a pause through the months before and after their first birthdays, and a very few will wean in spite of efforts to the contrary, but you can nearly eliminate the possibility that your child might wean prematurely just by offering the breast a few times a day during those weeks or months.

Most youngsters around their first birthday still enjoy receiving a nice tummy full of milk when they nurse, and if other forms of feeding and sucking take the place of feedings at the breast, there will be, as a direct result, less of the milk that so many of these children look for. This is an effective way to encourage weaning, whether that is what mother has in mind or not. For many children such a pattern constitutes a satisfactory parent-initiated weaning. Also, if bottles and pacifiers are handy to offer children, mothers are likely to make use of them to put off a feeding while finishing this or that project they are working on. This also will lead to an earlier weaning, whether intended or not.

The way to achieve a natural weaning, if that is your objective, is to feed and care for your infant without contrived interferences. Nurse on demand from birth. Forget about other foods until your child shows he is ready for them (and not before a minimum six to twelve months of age). Then feed your child sensibly. Eating foods other than your milk in the first year is more for fun than for nourishment. Except in very hot weather, a baby who nurses often but has begun to ask for other foods does not need any more liquids besides your milk than he mooches from your cup or glass. Quenching his thirst with water or juice in a sippy cup can result in less interest in nursing. An excellent way to avoid overfeeding or over-watering your baby is to make tasty foods available and attractive, but let her feed herself, in her own way, and in her own time.

Unless you are in a situation where you absolutely cannot nurse your baby, a pacifier is no help to you or to your baby. It is mostly a nuisance that, unlike your breast, is always getting dirty or lost. There is no need for bottles, either. Both pacifiers and bottles tend to become mother substitutes and are not satisfactory replacements for the full embrace of nursing.

Without the distraction and confusion brought on by pacifiers, bottles, and too much other food too soon, your child can nurse and wean in his own time and have a chance to outgrow his baby needs so completely that he can leave them behind, whether that be in his second year, or fourth, or whenever.

Not all children give up nursing gradually. Some children seem to reach a new plateau in maturity all at once and turn their backs on this or that baby behavior seemingly overnight. One mother writes of her two- year-old:

He had always nursed to sleep, but one afternoon he got two new trucks and was afraid his brother would take them while he was asleep. When I sat down to nurse him he pushed me away, took a truck in each hand, and plopped down on the bed. He never nursed to sleep after that, though he did not wean from other nursings for several months.

It is very common for little people to toilet-train themselves all at once. A few children also wean this way, especially when they are not nursing very often anyway. Surprisingly, the events that can bring on weaning in a child who is ready may be the same ones that may cause an increase in nursing at an earlier stage. A new baby, a move to a new home, or lots of company, often threatening to very little people, may at other times be so exciting and pleasant to your older child that he will drop nursing to have more time to devote to the happy new circumstances. If your child is weaning quickly just because that is her way of doing things, and if your breasts do not become overfull, then let the matter rest and go on to other ways of being with your child.

After Three
 
Most of my experience is with children who weaned between three and four, but clinical observations and research suggest that completely child-led weaning is unlikely to take place before the child turns four. (1, 2) Mothers in East Bhutan, where nursing well into childhood is socially acceptable, say that self-weaning usually occurs between three and five years. (3) In any case, weaning may come dramatically enough that your child will brag about it as one little girl did, telling her grandmother, "I'm going to be a big sister when I'm almost four – and now I'm weaned!" Or it may be so gradual that no one will know for sure when it happened.

For most children in this age range weaning is a slow, unpatterned change in behavior, so unpredictable that it is not always even headed in the same direction. At times, maybe even for long periods, your child will nurse frequently and intensely. When conditions change, either around your child or as a result of his own growth, he will begin to prefer other things over nursing – playing, eating, sleeping, or even cuddling with you sometimes. Then things may change again for him so that he needs to be at your breast almost as often as before.

As the weeks go on, though, there will be movement, whether you notice it or not, away from many periods of frequent nursing toward more periods of less nursing. In some children this movement is regular and swift. In others it is so erratic and unpredictable that it is easy to understand how people come to believe some children would never wean without urging. Some children even wean from one breast long before the other.

Such is the unpredictable course of an uncoerced weaning. At some age, very young or "shockingly old," your child will not find nursing so absolutely essential to her well-being. And you may even miss it, as did a mother in India, who found herself unable to answer her e-mail messages as soon as she had gotten used to:

You know how things get with a busy four-year-old around the place! Sadly he's stopped automatically latching on when he sees me sit down at the computer, and pulls me off to play instead!

Your child may be distracted from nursing by anything and everything. You can see that, though he may have some months to go yet, he is on his way toward a time when he will no longer need you in this exact way.

Is child-led weaning completely child-led? Yes and no, depending on your definition. You will probably respond, and appropriately so, to your child's increasing distractibility as he matures. He may pull you to your favorite nursing spot, sit you down, latch on, and then instantly abandon you to chase his sister or watch a TV commercial. When this has happened several times, you will very naturally and with hardly a thought respond less quickly to his requests to nurse, at least when he seems to be asking rather superficially, and when the world around the two of you is busy and interesting. In this way, even without planning it, you play your part in his weaning. You are following his cues and your own common sense.

You will probably come to a time when you yourself are impatient with nursing. If you have been enjoying loving your child this way, you may be puzzled at the change in your feelings. No doubt your impatience will flare at times and subside at others, depending on what is going on in the rest of your life. Some of what you may be feeling, though, is part of natural weaning and an indication that you are gradually outgrowing the relationship. You too are growing toward being ready when the time for weaning comes.

In time – how much time no one can say – your child will abandon all but a very few favorite nursing times, usually the times when he is falling asleep or first waking up in the morning. When you are down to these few times, your milk production will dwindle. Then some children who have especially liked the milk will quit nursing in favor of a breakfast or bedtime snack. Others continue to enjoy one or more of these special nursing times for a long time yet, dropping them slowly until a few days, then a few weeks, go by with no request to nurse.

Every spontaneous weaning is unique, however, so it is impossible to guarantee anything about it except that it will happen.

Resuming Nursing after Weaning
 
For most children before age three or so, weaning, spontaneous or mother-initiated, is all but final when two or three weeks have passed without your child's tugging your shirt. After this amount of time most of these little ones do not ask again, or if they do, they find they have forgotten how to suckle. "Is it broken?" one little guy asked when he could not remember after a year just how to go about nursing.

Once in a while someone suggests that your milk may become "poison" or "spoiled" if your child does not nurse for some certain amount of time. This is an old wives' tale, one that is heard in many parts of the world. In rural Zimbabwe, for instance, mothers are told that if milk remains in the breast for a whole day, it will hurt the child. (4) But you can be assured that milk doesn't spoil in the breasts any more than blood does in the veins. Your child can nurse safely after any interval.

Occasionally a child will ask to nurse again after you have regarded her as totally weaned, but most forget how. A mother who was sad because her body just would not cooperate with her son's need to nurse during her pregnancy wrote:

I still have regrets because I see many LLL moms nursing their two-and-a-half-year-old sons, and I know that if I hadn't gotten pregnant I'd be nursing my son too. I think it would help because he doesn't talk, and it would be a great way to stay connected to him. He has tried to nurse since the new baby was born two months ago, but he doesn't remember how. I let him try whenever he wants (it's not very often).

The most likely circumstance for such requests is when you have a new baby, but also once in a while when a child discovers that mom is pregnant. Or your child may be upset about something, as in this situation recalled by the mother of a now grown daughter:

It was a disastrous time ending up with a breast abscess and an angry weaning at about two-and-a-half. She missed nursing so much though that we gradually started up again, nursed through a pregnancy and tandem nursed. She finally weaned by contract a couple months after her sixth birthday.

There is no reason that you can't allow your child to try nursing again, even though you have probably told all the relatives he is weaned. Chances are that he is weaned. A request to nurse from a child who has not nursed for a while is usually a request for reassurance and acceptance. You may not be able to discover any explanation for your child's desire to return to nursing other than the mysterious workings of his growing little mind. It feels good to a little child to know that if he ever did need you again that way, you would be there for him with open arms. One mother says of her weaned twins that they both had to try nursing several times when the new baby came, but gave it up after a few tries. It is much easier for a little person to wean himself if he knows that his decision does not have to be final.

One mother had nothing but positive feelings when her child wanted to nurse again a few times after over a year without asking for the breast: "I never realized just how important and memorable those nursing days were to her and that she would actually remember at all. This was her 'thank you' for the loving patience and time I took when it was needed." A brief return to the mostly outgrown way of loving can be a chance for mother and little one together to enjoy a bit of reminiscing.

Another mother writes of a child who resumed nursing – sort of:

When our daughter was about eleven months, [her two-year-old brother] started to become very interested in what nursing was. He shocked me one day by pretending to nurse on one breast while his sister was at the other. I didn't try to discourage him because by now I had read a little about tandem nursing and I hoped if he was to start nursing again after two years that it would help our relationship. I had already noticed the difference between my two children's behavior that I attribute to our nursing relationship. My son is a very energetic boy who likes to tell me "No!" as often as possible while my daughter is helpful and calm most of the time.

Now that she is fifteen months and he is two-and-a-half years old, he still continues to pretend but doesn't actually latch on. He even tells Baby, as he calls his sister, that it is time to nurse and he directs her to the breast he chooses. I am kind of sad that I didn't nurse him as long as I have nursed his sister but it is wonderful that he has joined our breastfeeding relationship.

For a child who is apparently weaned to actually resume nursing for a while, sometimes for no reason that you can perceive, might make you feel panicky, especially if you are very happy for your child to relate to you in a different way. Yet it will be helpful to your child for you to go along with him if you can. Just as we adults sometimes make a mistake in deciding to wean our children too soon, occasionally very small growing people make mistakes in deciding to wean themselves too soon. There is a reason, no doubt, whether we can see it with our adult eyes or not, that your child needs to nurse again for a while.

Although it may seem like it at first, you and your child are not going back to the beginning of the weaning process. After a few days of adjustment your child is not likely to nurse any more than do other children his age. He is not returning to babyhood, but picking up a behavior that is appropriate for his age. He will nurse and wean also in a way appropriate to his age – maybe in the next few days, or maybe some months hence.

Weaning need not be any more dramatic and final than toilet-training. We are not surprised when a child who is supposedly toilet-trained forgets and "backslides" for a while. It should be no more disconcerting that a weaned child would remember and nurse when he needs to. In a household with a new baby, being welcome at mother's breast, if he feels the need, can be quite a help in overcoming a child's feeling of displacement. There is no harm done by stepping back to baby things for a while – and considerable good in the long run.

Spontaneous Weaning in Children over Four
 
We commonly hear that most younger children do not ask to nurse again after they are weaned because they forget about nursing. This may be true, though I am not sure. It is certain, however, that children over four (or even over three sometimes) do not forget. As I have said, many of them will remember nursing as long as they live. So it should not be surprising that children over four are notorious for going about weaning each in their own way. Many seem to give a lot of consideration to weaning. One little girl, asked when she would wean, thought about it and then replied, "Oh, probably I will try when I'm five, 'cause you can't come to school – can you?!"

Children usually wean at a time that is easy for them, when their lives are otherwise stable. From their behavior it is often evident that they are making quite a rational choice for so young a person. Some children tell their parents that they are weaning because they themselves decided to do so, and it is easy to see from watching other children that this is the case with them as well. In some children the process that leads to weaning is not readily apparent; but this is probably not because it is so much different for them, but because they are children who keep their own counsel about it.

In the months that follow a decision to wean (or at least what appears to be such a decision) many children encounter rough spots that cause them to reconsider. These times can worry you if you have regarded the child as weaned. But you have not lost progress toward weaning. A child this age who goes weeks or months without nursing is definitely working on growing up. When she asks to nurse again after such a long time you can be sure that she has just come to a time in her life which she can handle better if she can still nurse a bit. Once she works her way past it, she will get back to the business of weaning.

Many mothers are quite hesitant to say that their over-fours are weaned, even after months without nursing. So often it seems that the minute mother pronounces her child weaned, he needs to nurse again. Needless to say, spontaneous weaning with older nurslings can be gradual indeed!


References

1. Lawrence, R. A. and Lawrence, R. M. Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. 5th edition. St. Louis: The C. V. Mosby Company, 1994; 345.

2. Sugarman, M. and Kendall-Tackett, K. A. Weaning ages in a sample of American women who practice extended breastfeeding. Clinical Pediatrics 1995; 34(12):646.

3. Behler, E, and Ingstad, B. The struggle of weaning: Factors determining breastfeeding duration in East Bhutan. Social Science and Medicine 1996; 43(12):1809.

4. Cosminsky, S., Mhloyi, M, and Ewbank, D. Child feeding practices in a rural area of Zimbabwe. Social Science and Medicine April 1993; 36(7):944.



Purchase Mothering Your Nursing Toddler on Amazon, or visit the MYN Toddler website today.


Additional Information on Natural Weaning and Nursing Strikes:

A Natural Age of Weaning

A Time to Wean

How Weaning Happens (book)

Natural Weaning Age (pdf) from The Baby Bond (book)

The Joy of Nursing Toddlers Gallery & Resource Collection

Do Babies Under 12 months self-wean? (KellyMom.com)

Breastfeeding Older Children (book)

Adventures in Tandem Nursing (book)

La Leche League International Nursing Strike FAQ

Is Your Baby on a Nursing Strike?


Toddler Nursing Strike

Is Your Baby on a Nursing Strike?


Help! My Baby Won't Nurse (KellyMom.com)

Surviving a Nursing Strike

Breastfeeding Latch Trick (if baby is young and latch is a problem)

When a Baby Won't Nurse

La Leche League International: Helping Babies Reluctant to Nursing


Helpful books, articles and websites for nursing mothers linked at Breastfeeding Resources


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