Saturday, July 30, 2011

Removing Pleasure: Male Genital Mutilation

By Keith D. Mitchell © 2011


The practice of male genital mutilation, commonly known as circumcision in the United States, predates recorded history. Although often associated with the Book of Genesis, the performance of genital alterations has been around much longer. Its roots appear to stem from eastern Africa (DeMeo, 1989), while in the U.S., routine infant male circumcision did not became widely accepted until the 20th century. It has been established that there is no therapeutic or prophylactic benefit to circumcision (Gairdner, 1949; Preston, 1970). Preston states that circumcision creates, “undesirable psychological, sexual, and medico-legal difficulties.” Further research has shown that circumcision, “performed around the phallic stage is perceived by the child as an act of aggression and castration,” (Cansever, 1965). In 1971, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement that “there are no valid medical indications for circumcision in the neonatal period” (1971). Studies have also found that American adolescents are more aggressive toward their peers than their [intact] French counter-parts (Field, 1999). Despite compelling evidence and the AAP statements, over half of all males born in the U.S. were still victim of routine infant male genital mutilation in 2005 (Merrill, Nagamine, & Steiner, 2008).

Several theories exist to explain the widespread acceptance of routine infant male circumcision. One theory proposes that genital mutilation began as a way of “purifying” individuals and society by reducing sexual pleasure. Some see human sexuality as impure and by physically removing the pleasure-producing body parts one could be purified. Research has shown (Warren & Bigelow, 1994; Taylor, Lockwood, & Taylor, 1996) that the male foreskin is the primary site of erogenous sensation in the male, and by removing the foreskin, erogenous sensation is considerably reduced. Considering this, circumcision could be seen as a surrendering of immoral physical pleasures and as a way of seeking spiritual glory (Warren & Bigelow, 1994).

The germ theory of disease created an image of the body as transportation for contamination. As a result, many people became fearful of dirt and bodily secretions. Because of its function, the penis began to be thought of as “dirty.” The basis for male genital mutilation was instituted as preventative medicine to reduce the perceived “dirtiness” of the penis (Gollaher, 1994). Around the turn of the 20th century, masturbation went from being viewed casually to being viewed as intensely wrong, improper, and potentially harmful. Practitioners in the late 1800s and early 1900s viewed circumcision to be a method of treating and preventing masturbation among boys and men.

Many may assume that religious groups caused male genital mutilation to gain in popularity in the U.S., but in fact, a combination of the germ theory of disease and a negative view of masturbation were the biggest factors in creating and maintaining this American perversion of routine infant male genital mutilation. Around the turn of the 20th century, Americans commonly heard that male circumcision could “protect against syphilis phimosis, paraphimosis, balanitis, and 'excessive venery' (which was believed to produce paralysis)” (Hutchinson, 1855).

Victims of routine infant male genital mutilation have very mixed reactions when it comes to the subject. There are many who whole-heartedly embrace the detrimental alteration that has occurred to them. They accept their culture's view of the practice and their personal state of being sexually altered. To them, “it is normal” and they do not regard it as a negative experience. In fact, many American males view the removal of the foreskin as a positive thing. “Women like it” or “it’s cleaner” are common responses from misinformed or uninformed men when the subject is brought about. When infant circumcision is mentioned men occasionally state they want their children to “look like them.” One might assume that if they are the child’s father, the child should look like them either way. One might also wonder how often a father will be exposing his penis to his son...

Attempts to inform those who do not wish to admit that they have been weakened sexually, that they were deprived of their full male sensuality and sexuality, are often met with hostility. Men cut as infants are introduced to this world with the immediate experience of pain, and are nurtured throughout childhood to believe that “boys don’t cry" - men are tough. To be vulnerable, weak, and sensitive, to feel any emotion other than occasional anger, is the job of women. As men, these emotions should not be felt - especially when it pertains to their penis. Parents often discourage the expression of emotion-filled behavior, and it carries over into our discussion of circumcision.

There is another reaction common among sexually altered men. This is the deep feeling of loss. It may be expressed as intense depression. Some men feel hopeless, helpless, and empty. There are tales of suicide (Bigelow, The Joy of Uncircumcising!, 1994). There are those who feel anger - anger toward the doctors, their parents, and society as a whole. These are the persons and institutions men assume are in place to help them, and instead they are the very ones who stole things from them. There are those who suppress this feeling. They pretend everything is okay. These men often drown feelings with alcohol, bury them under food, and lose them in their work. There are men who seek revenge, men who seek justice, and men who just want this perversion to end. Many decide to attempt to restore their foreskins to regain some of what was stolen from them. (Bigelow, Uncircumcising: Undoing the Effects of an Ancient Practice in a Modern World, 1994; Bigelow, The Joy of Uncircumcising!, 1994).

Those who decide to restore their foreskins embark on an interesting journey. Along the way they will experience pain, pleasure, possibly a few awkward moments while on the way to a sense of completeness. Many know they will never be exactly as nature designed them; still, they will do anything in their power to regain some feeling of “wholeness.” I wrote about my own feelings of woundedness and attempting to feel whole again. I kept a blog on a website that has since been closed down because of lack of funding. (Mitchell, 2008) In it, I wrote:
My mother and father never discussed circumcision. Neither of them ever thought that there was a reason to. My mother hated the very idea of altering her son in a way that was completely unnecessary. Her logic was that God created humans and that man should not alter the body. My father never gave it too much thought. He had been circumcised shortly after his birth and assumed that his sons would also be circumcised. Shortly after my birth, with my mother heavily sedated, my father signed a consent form and my natural sexual function was removed. Once my mother came to and discovered what had been done to her child, she was furious. After a heated discussion with my father, it was decided that any future children would be left intact. And when my brother was born, that promise was kept. He left the hospital with a natural penis.

This story is unique. The fact is, a large portion of parents still opt to alter their sons' genitals (United States Circumcision Incidence, 2008). Many do not question the ethical implications. There is a strange gendered double standard that exists around this subject today. It is only recently that female genital mutilation has been so heavily looked down on. Even in the 20th century, American physicians were recommending female circumcision. W.G. Rathmann, M.D., recommended that “[i]f the husband is unusually awkward or difficult to educate, one should at times make the clitoris easier to find,” (Rathmann, 1959). Today, we value female genitalia at least enough to allow the individual to grow up with the genitals they were born with. Women have the right to chose whether or not they will change how their genitals look and feel. It is true that vaginal alterations are becoming increasingly popular (Blatt, 2009). But these procedures are seen as elective, and the decision to undergo them is made entirely by the adult whose body is being altered.

Other female body alterations like mastectomy and hysterectomy continue and support groups for women who have experienced these physical losses exist as well. Americans view these losses as emotionally traumatizing and realize the need for support systems. The female breasts and the internal female reproductive system are all seen as valuable in American culture and their removal is acknowledged as being traumatic for the person enduring it. Feminism can be thanked for these advances in the appropriate treatment of women who are victims of various forms of experienced trauma. Unfortunately, feminism has not helped men in the same way, and masculism doesn't seem to be gaining much ground anytime soon (Bax, 1913).

It is nearly impossible to remove religion from culture, however just because a religious precedent exists, this does not mean such a belief will be adhered to if the culture is providing conflicting information. As American culture slowly begins to embrace the rest of the world’s intact point of view, religious beliefs are being questioned as well. As Michael Kimmel writes when deciding whether to leave his son, Zachary, intact,
We heard a lot of arguments, for and against. To be sure, there is no shortage of arguments in favor of circumcision. Some are aesthetic, and offer a psychological theory based on that aesthetic. Without circumcision, we heard, our son will look different from his father, and thus develop shame about his body. Our son will look different from other Jewish boys, especially in our heavily Jewish neighborhood, thus be subject to ridicule and teasing, and develop a sense that he does not belong... 
Other arguments are medical. After all, male circumcision is the most common surgical procedure in the United States and medical insurance carriers routinely cover hospital circumcision (which raises the incentives of medical practitioners to advocate the procedure). Our son's risks of penile infection, STD, and penile cancer, we were told, would be lower if he were to be circumcised. The likelihood of uterine cancer in his female sexual partners would be higher if he were not.

In addition, there were conflicting reports on the effects of circumcision on sexual functioning. There is some evidence from sex surveys that circumcised men are more sexually active and more sexually adventurous, especially as regards oral and anal sex. Circumcised men masturbate more often. And because circumcised men have less sexual sensitivity--after all, the foreskin contains about 1,000 nerve endings, fully one-third of the organ's pleasure receptors--there is some evidence that circumcision delays ejaculation somewhat.

And, of course, the weight of family, history, and culture do not rest lightly on the shoulders of the new parent. As Jews we knew full well the several-thousand-year-old tradition of following one of the most fundamental of God's commandments to Abraham--that "every male among you shall be circumcised...and that shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you."

In the end, none of the arguments in favor of circumcision was fully persuasive. Taken together, however, they raised issues that spoke to the core of our identities as a man and a woman, as parents, as feminists, and as Jews. Each of the points of contention seems worth discussing in a bit more detail. (Kimmel, 2001).
While Kimmel’s decision isn’t the decision all parents make, his story shows that conflict can arise between two parts of an individual's life. It seems as though some are far too willing to go with what the dominant group has deemed acceptable. Yet, the best thing a person can do is to become informed. Kimmel concluded,
We welcomed Zachary into our family on that morning without a circumcision. We decided that we want him to live in a world without violence, so we welcomed him without violence. We decided that we want him to live in a world in which he is free to experience the fullness of the pleasures of his body, so we welcomed him with all his fleshy nerves intact. And we decided that we want him to live in a world in which male entitlement is a waning memory, and in which women and men are seen--in both ritual and in reality--as full equals and partners. So we welcomed him equally, his mother and I, in the time-honored way that desert cultures have always welcomed strangers to their tents: We washed his feet.
America was built on the rights of the individual. To take away a person’s choice when it comes to their own body would be like reinstating anti-sodomy laws which were repealed in 1998; or to once again allow the nonconsensual alterations of female genitals which was outlawed in 1996. It has been demonstrated that male genital mutilation is harmful and, while the rate is dropping (reported by the CDC to be 32% in 2009), it is still widely practiced in the U.S. with no support for any reputable health care organization, and very little potential benefit. The sad part is, we’ve known this for decades and yet still it continues. American society refuses to admit it has a problem. To paraphrase AboveTheInfluence.com: There are many reasons someone may deny they have a problem. This denial may have to do with embarrassment or concealment due to real or perceived consequences, or we are embarrassed that we have a problem. There is also a lot of stigma associated with just having a problem (2009). America would benefit greatly if it realized it has a problem and start doing something to fix it rather than trying to justify this practice. Until we do, male genital mutilation will continue to be a 'cure' in search of an ailment.


References

AboveTheInfluence.com. (n.d.). Why do some people refuse to admit that they have a problem? Retrieved December 17, 2009, from Above The Influence: http://www.abovetheinfluence.com/help/ask-the-doc/refuse-to-admit-problem.aspx

Aggleton, P. (2007). Roundtable: “Just a Snip”?: A Social History of Male Circumcision. Reproductive Health Matters, 15-21.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (1971). Standards and Recommendation for Hospital Care of Newborn infants. 5th ed. Committee on Fetus and Newborn (p. 110). Evanston, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Bax, E. (1913). The Fraud of Feminism. London: Grant Richards Ltd.

Bigelow, J. (1994). The Joy of Uncircumcising! Hourglass Book Publishing Company.

Bigelow, J. (1994). Uncircumcising: Undoing the Effects of an Ancient Practice in a Modern World. Mothering, 56-61.

Blatt, R. (2009). Retrieved December 8, 2009, from Center For Vaginal Surgery: http://www.centerforvaginalsurgery.com/

Cansever, G. (1965). Psychological Effects of Circumcision. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 321-331.

DeMeo, J. (1989). The Geography of Genital Mutilations. The Truth Seeker, 9-13.

Field, T. (1999). American Adolecents Touch Each Other Less and are More Aggressive Toward Their Peers As Compared With Frence Adolecents. Adolescence.

Gairdner, D. (1949). The Fate of the Foreskin. British Medical Journal, 1433-1437.

Gollaher, D. (1994). From Ritual to Science: The Medical Transformation of Circumcision in America. Journal of Social History, 5-36.

Hutchinson, J. (1855). On the Influence of Circumcision in Preventing Syphilis. Medical Times and Gazette NS, Vol II, 542-543.

Kimmel, M. (2001). The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son's Foreskin. Tikkun, 16 (3).

Merrill, C., Nagamine, M., & Steiner, C. (2008). Circumcisions Performed in U.S. Community Hospitals, 2005. Rockville, MD: Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP).

Mitchell, K. (2008, May 1). Retrieved May 1, 2008, from RestoreForeskin.org: http://www.restoreforeskin.org

Preston, E. (1970). Whither the Foreskin? A Consideration of Routine Neonatal Circumcision. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1853-1858.

Rathmann, W. (1959). Female Circumcision: Indications and a New Technique. GP, Vol. XX, no. 3 , 115-120.

Taylor, J., Lockwood, A., & Taylor, A. (1996). The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and its Loss to Circumcision. British Journal of Urology International, 291-295.

United States Circumcision Incidence. (2008, May 25). Retrieved December 6, 2009, from Circumcision Information and Resourse Pages: http://www.cirp.org/library/statistics/USA/

Warren, J., & Bigelow, J. (1994). The Case Against Circumcision. British Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6-8.

Zoske, J. (1998). Male Circumcision: A Gender Perspective. Journal of Men's Studies, 189.




Keith D. Mitchell serves in New York City as a mentor at the I Have a Dream Program and is the NYC coordinator of NORM (The National Organization of Restoring Men). He currently studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, where he strives to promote the humanistic principles of wellbeing for everyone, regardless of age, sex, gender, race, nationality, orientation, size, ability, etc. Mitchell's scholastic endeavors especially focus on the safety, security, education, and development of children.


Additional resources and information on the prepuce organ, intact care and circumcision at: Are You Fully Informed?


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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Children of the Tao: Ten Tips for Peaceful Parenting

By Sarah Long © 2011

More than 2,000 years ago, there lived a Chinese philosopher named Lao Tzu ("The Old Sage") who was renowned for his wisdom. When asked to summarize his teachings, he wrote a short book of poetry. These 81 poems were called Tao Te Ching, or “The Book of the Way,” and are the basis of Taoism. This peaceful philosophy has provided guidance for more than two millennium, and can be used both as a guide for governing a country, and for parenting our children.

1) Value peace.

Peace is [the Master’s] highest value.
 If the peace has been shattered,
 how can he be content? (#31)

It is not possible to teach our children about the importance of peace if we are raising them in a chaotic atmosphere, or if they see us cheering at every new war and picking arguments with family members and neighbors. Let's evaluate our home: Is it a soothing environment that is conducive to happy children and peaceful parenting? Or is there loud music, continuous television and other noises competing for attention, raised voices, and frequent arguments?

2) Lead by example.

The Master is content 
to serve as an example
 and not to impose her will. (#58)

Remember, children model behavior that they see, and they always seem to pick the negative behavior to model first. Have you ever gone on a cursing rampage while stuck in rush hour traffic with your children sitting in the backseat? They will repeat the words that they hear us saying, whether we want them to or not. They may not do it in front of us, but we can't be surprised if a parent knocks on our front door to notify us that "your child taught my child the F-word..."  Of course, it is likely that their child has already heard the word elsewhere, but why not be the parent on the block whose children model positive words and behavior?

3) Do everything in moderation.

For governing a country well,
there is nothing better than moderation. (#59)



Parenting is all about finding our personal balance. Frequently, parents have one or more jobs, in addition to extracurricular activities for the kids, running errands, housecleaning, and meal preparation. In all of the shuffle, it is easy to overburden oneself, which results in frazzled nerves and easy irritation. This, in turn, can be taken out on our children. It is important to teach moderation to our kids. Part of this can be done by modeling balanced behavior, but there is also value in verbally communicating the importance of not overdoing things.

4) Live simply.

If you look to others for fulfillment,
 you will never truly be fulfilled.
 If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself. (#44)

It is easy to have a complicated life, but in most cases, complicated means stressful. A perfect example of this is walking through the house after everyone has gone to bed, and stubbing a toe on furniture, stepping on toys, and tripping over shoes left in front of the couch. While it is necessary for our children to have clothing and toys, is it necessary for them to have so much that they cannot keep up with everything? It may be a good idea to limit our children's toys to what can fit into one toy box, and to donate everything else to a homeless shelter or second-hand store. If there is time, children can help to choose what needs to go, which will teach them a little about sharing and helping those less fortunate.

5) Be proactive whenever possible.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
 Put things in order before they exist. (#64)

In order to have a smoothly-run home, it is essential that we learn to stay on top of things that happen inside and outside the four walls of our abode. By paying attention to details and making a habit of proactively and preemptively solving any problems, we add to the overall peaceful environment in our homes and make our lives and those of our children easier, which will in turn lead to a more peaceful tone in our family life.

6) Teach your children the importance of good sportsmanship.

The best athlete 
wants his opponent at his best. (#68)

If we raise children who value fairness and good sportsmanship, it is likely that they will grow up to value egalitarianism in all of its forms. However, if we raise children to be overly competitive, and they witness us trashing others in order to make ourselves look and feel better, than they will have a skewed view of what it takes to get along in polite company. This can potentially lead to problems once they become adults - including boorish behavior and ignorance of social mores.


7) Act without expectations.

[The Master] lets all things come and go 
effortlessly, without desire. 
He never expects results;
 thus he is never disappointed. (#55)

Have you ever given someone a gift that you thought they would rave over, only to receive a disappointingly tepid response? Imagine if you had given it to them without any expectations: what may have seemed like a indifferent smile would now just be a smile, and you may be more satisfied with their response. The same can be said for any other aspect of life. If we go into a situation with high expectations, we may well be disappointed. This has the potential to lead to irritation, hurt feelings, etc. Instead, we may try to focus on realistic expectations with our children, and find we are able to avoid the intense negative feelings and reactions that come with unmet expectations.

8) Know when and how to yield.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
 The soft and supple will prevail. (#76)

There will be many times when our children are unable or unwilling to follow the rules we have laid out for them. When this happens, it is up to us, as their parents, to decide what our reaction will be. Will we punish them for every little infraction? Or have we created some breathing room in our rules, so that children have small opportunities to think for themselves and make personal decisions about their behavior? Being a parent is not about setting things in stone, but rather about knowing when situations call for flexibility in favor of our child’s overall growth.


9) React appropriately to outbursts and misbehavior.

The soft overcomes the hard;
 the gentle overcomes the rigid. (#78)

Anyone who has dealt with a three-year-old’s temper tantrum can attest to the fact that yelling at a child or punishing them for their outburst rarely has the desired effect. It is this author’s experience that most outbursts are the result of the child being overly tired or overcome with emotions (such as frustration, fear, sadness, etc.), not of a child intentionally trying to misbehave. If such behavior is handled with love and understanding, rather than more negative reactions, then said behavior is much more likely to clear itself up quickly, rather than snowballing into something more severe. This not only saves time and energy, but reinforces your overall attitude of peaceful parenting and creates a closer bond between us and our child.


10) Trust the process, especially when it doesn’t seem to be working.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
 Let it be present in your family
 and your family will flourish. (#54)

There will be days when nothing that we are doing seems to have the desired effect, and we are tempted to revert to more aggressive measures in order to assert our authority over our children or a trying situation. However, this will only serve to undermine all of the hard work we have put into everything to that point, in order to create a peaceful environment for our family. Children need consistency, and this includes consistency in our parenting philosophies. If they see six days of peaceful parenting followed by one day of aggressive measures, this can cause them to lose trust in our authority, and to question their role in the sudden change of atmosphere. Even when it is difficult, it is crucial that we remain a reliable, steadfast person in their life, so they in turn can depend on us as they grow to be reliable, strong-rooted adults themselves.


Sarah Long is a single mom who runs her own business, homeschools her children, and is an advocate of raising children the way she wished she had been raised. She has two delightful children to show for her efforts, and she enjoys writing about them at Instructions Optional.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Did You Do Today?

By Alan Smith © 2002
Excerpt posted with permission. Read full story at Heartlight
More from Smith at Alan Smith's Thought for the Day.



One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard. The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house.

Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened.

He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?”

She again smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world I did today?”

“Yes” was his incredulous reply.

She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”

~~~~

As a full time parent, do you ever feel like this? The massive amounts of work you put into your children on a daily basis can so often get overlooked, go unnoticed, and seem unappreciated. If so, you may enjoy a larger collection of reading from Naomi Stadlen:  


You, my friend, are not alone.  
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Study Finds Breastfeeding, CoSleeping Mothers Get More Sleep

By Danelle Frisbie © 2011

Researchers at the College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University found that breastfeeding mothers get more sleep when sharing sleep with their baby (i.e. sleeping within an arm's reach of baby, or 'cosleeping'). 

Previous studies have found that breastfed babies have protective stages of healthy sleep/wake cycles - reducing the risk of SIDS and other breathing, hormonal, and bio-regulatory irregularities. It was previously thought that because breastfed babies spend more of their day and night in an alert state, that their mothers may have less sleep than formula fed babies' mothers.

Drs. Stephanie Quillin and Lee Glenn, who led the study at East Tennessee State, sought to address the unsolved question of whether there is an interaction between the type of feeding (breastfed or formula fed) and sleep arrangements (sharing sleep vs. solo sleeping) that impacts mothers' postpartum sleep.

Thrity-three first time mothers and their newborns participated in the study over the course of their fourth week postpartum. Total amount of sleep, amount of night-time sleep, number of wakings, and number of sleep periods in 24 hours were recorded using a modified version of the Barnard and Eyres sleep instrument.

Results showed that breastfed babies did have less total sleep per day than formula fed babies, but that nursing, cosleeping mothers enjoyed more sleep in each 24 hour period than those who fed by bottle or put baby to sleep solo. Breastfeeding mothers also slept significantly more often than other mothers when sharing sleep at night or during naps. Bottle feeding mothers' amount of sleep was not changed by the location of their baby, (which is not to suggest that infants didn't benefit from sleeping near their mothers, as we know hormones, respiration, and cardiovascular systems are significantly impacted when a baby is close to his mother during sleep vs. left solo and apart from her).

Average total sleep for a four week old baby was approximately 14 hours daily. Researchers concluded that mothers do in fact receive the most sleep postpartum when breastfeeding and sleeping next to their baby. They have suggested the need for increased and improved methods and means for breastfeeding mothers and their babies to share sleep in a safe manner.

As sociological, anthropological, and historical research has shown, the system of sharing sleep is not a novel one. Most mothers and their babies around the world today, and throughout human history, sleep near to each other during the early years of vulnerability and need for night time nourishment, comfort, security and regulation. Included in this sleep sharing paradigm are all other mammals whose babies sleep near mom during early development, and who, like humans, are defined as 'mammals' in part due to their need for mothers' milk.

References

Gerhardt, S. (1999). Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Janov, A. (2000). The Biology of Love. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

Liedloff, J. (1985). The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. 

Quillin, S. I. M. and Glenn, L. L. (2004). "Interaction Between Feeding Method and Co-Sleeping on Maternal-Newborn Sleep." Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 33: 580–588.

Small, M. (1999). Our Babies, Ourselves. New York: Random House.


Related Reading




Good Nights! The Happy Parents' Guide to the Family Bed and a Peaceful Night's Sleep

Nighttime Parenting: How to Get Your Baby and Child to Sleep

The Baby Sleep Book

Sleeping With Your Baby: A Parent's Guide to CoSleeping

The Family Bed: An Age Old Concept in Child Rearing

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Allow Such Cruelty?

By Rex Jory © 2011
Read more from Jory at The Advertiser (AU)

It's got to be said somewhere in this article so let's get it out of the way: I have been circumcised.

There. One of my most intimate secrets, shared with a precious few, is out.

I don't feel angry, distressed, traumatised, inconvenienced, betrayed or deprived because, as an infant, I had skin trimmed from my willy. It has never troubled me, physically or psychologically, either as a child or an adult. I'm sure my parents authorised the operation with the best of non-religious intentions. Perhaps I have benefited, perhaps I've been deprived. How can I know?

For the uncertain, the Concise Oxford Dictionary says: "Circumcise. Cut off foreskin of (as Jewish or Mohammedan rite, or surgically); purify."

If you consider male circumcision clinically and unemotionally it is hard to argue that it is not a cruel, unnecessary, unethical and painful process and a barbaric denial of basic human rights. Laws safeguard females against genital mutilation yet boys are given no parallel protection against unnecessary and possibly unwanted surgical intervention. Why the inequity? Surely the human rights of boys are as important as they are for girls. Yet there is no pressure, no call for an absolute, non-consensual ban on male circumcision. It is assent by silence.

Australian governments have an obligation under the Sex Discrimination Act and the International Convention of Human Rights to treat males and females equally and without discrimination on the basis of gender and to take action to eradicate traditional practices harmful to children. Curiously, this apparently does not fully embrace male circumcision.

John Stuart Mill wrote: "The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community against his will, is to prevent harm to others." The circumcision of a defenceless infant may not, technically, be against his will, but it is clearly carried out without his consent and hardly prevents harm to others.

The Australian Human Rights Commission argues that every person has inherent dignity and value and must be able to live without fear, harassment or discrimination. Removing part of an infant's penis has to be a gross violation of personal dignity and basic human rights. If the same thing happened to a non-consenting adult male there would be a public outcry.

In a civilised society parents and other authority figures including teachers and police cannot physically punish or harm children. It is against the law. Yet parents have the power and right to allow their sons to be circumcised and doctors have the right to carry out the operation free from fear of discipline or punishment.

It is one thing for an adult to consent to self-mutilation by being tattooed or having metal rings or pins inserted in their body. It is quite another to mutilate an infant. Parental consent is apparently a legal loophole, yet any reasonable assessment would class circumcision as assault.

The reasons for circumcision embrace four categories: Religious or cultural, as in Judaism, Islam and some tribal societies; custom or social - to look like father or siblings; to correct a deformity or other medical problem; or to reduce the real or imagined risk of health problems.

The majority of circumcisions [in Australia] are performed for religious purposes - and this alone may justify the current ambiguity in law - or for reasons of appearance and social conformity. They are rarely medically or clinically necessary.

Yet governments don't appear to have the will to apply legislative protection for small boys to prevent the parents from seeking circumcision or doctors from carrying out the operation.

There is a strong argument to suggest that the medical risks and the violation of human rights and personal integrity should stir the consciences of our legislators. Instead they prefer assent by silence.



Join the G'Day! Facebook page of those raising awareness in Australia. 

Resources on the prepuce, intact care and circumcision at Are You Fully Informed?

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

When Babies Cry: Pick Them Up

By Suzy DeYoung © 2011
Read more from DeYoung at Newtown Patch


Now and then, amidst all the advice thrust at new parents on everything from breastfeeding to planning ahead for college, there emerges a genuine pearl of wisdom.

For me as a new mom, this came from a woman who was (and still is) a seasoned parent, grandparent, teacher and author. She took one look at the newborn girl I had just introduced her to and simply said, “Pick her up when she cries.”

Despite the myriad of counsel received from friends, doctors and parenting books, I found myself both then and as the years went on, coming back to those six words.

Although unable to put my finger on it at the time, I sensed there was more substance behind those words. While I may not have been always able to stop the cries of my children, I was able to communicate on a much deeper level that their cries were heard and would indeed receive a compassionate response.

I truly believe that the ability to confidently venture off into the world as toddlers, young children and eventually teenagers, stems from the sense of trust and security that originates with having one's needs responded to throughout infancy.

Cries are the one and only tool infants have for conveying their needs or distress. Ignoring a baby’s cries, contrary to mistaken and unfortunately occasionally still held beliefs, does not “toughen them up.”

Rather, it removes that sense of trust and security in one’s world that is so essential during the first couple of years of life. Rather than “spoiling,” (milk spoils, not babies) responding to an infant’s cries empowers them. They are “heard,” hence the world is responsive and compassionate; perspectives that help babies evolve into toddlers and children who are resilient, self-assured and joyful.

Longtime resident of Newtown, CT, Mary Jane Wheble is parent to two children, Paolo, 16 and Anna 13. Reflecting back on her daughter's infancy, Mary Jane had this to say:

“The worst advice I got – let Anna cry herself to sleep every night – it was the hardest thing we ever did, really painful, and it didn’t really work.”

Can parents always “fix” what is distressing their babies? No.

Might they need to walk away for a few minutes when it seems like the tears will never end? Of course. Sometimes however, it helps to just accept that once hunger, sickness, messy diapers or pain are ruled out, it doesn’t have to be about stopping the tears. It can simply be about “being there.”

Parents know their children best and trusting their own instincts over counsel from others can frequently prove beneficial as parent Barbara Nicholson attests.

Barbara is mother to four grown children and also co-author of the book Attached at the Heart. She said:
“We ‘learn our babies’ through listening to their verbal cues, and being perceptive to their signals for hunger, touch and stimulation. When these needs are inconsistently attended to or worse, ignored, we jeopardize our baby’s ability to trust in their caregivers, creating insecurity in the normal attachment process. How I wish I had been taught this in my psychology classes in college! Instead we were learning about behaviorism, learning that responding to a negative stimulus would only increase the behavior, and ignoring was the best way to extinguish unpleasant actions. Fortunately I was exposed to the wise women of La Leche League who taught me that to have a successful breastfeeding experience, I must respond to my baby’s needs, feeding them when they are hungry, rather than when the clock said it was time to be fed. I know now that when the heart and mind are in conflict, listen to your heart!"
Infants process much more than adults frequently think they can. Many “learned” responses from infancy carry through into the later years. If a parent finds this time overwhelming it is imperative to seek help, which is widely available and fortunately these days, encouraged.

Seventeen years later I can still say this simple yet important guidance was the best advice I received as a new mom and is as relevant today when my kids "cry" as it was back then.

~~~~

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Eco Fab Mama: Why Use Cloth Pads?

By Veronica Perrin © 2011


For the past several years I've had the pleasure of serving moms around the globe with the reusable items I make at Moms Crafts 4 U and Eco Fab Mama. Many questions especially exist about the use of cloth pads and with this post I'd like to highlight several of the reasons so many women today use cloth pads, how they are used, and the types you will find available. Because I speak as an expert in Mama Pads, there may be minor differences between those I discuss and brands from other makers of cloth pads.

Cloth Materials Used

The Mama Pads I make consist of multiple fabrics, depending on the coverage required. These are very soft and comfortable: you will not mind wearing them! Included may be: 100% cotton, 100% cotton flannel, organic bamboo velour, ZORB (a super absorbent layer that holds 10x its weight in less than half a second), PUL (an anti-leak fabric that does not allow liquid to go through), and fleece (the fleece is not only used as an anti-leak layer, but it also helps pads stay in place without slipping). On each winged pad you will find Poly Resin Snaps for closure (similar to the 'wings' on disposable pads). These are applied with a professional snap press to ensure quality workmanship. Snaps are very durable, and longer lasting than metal snaps which will rust, chip and fade.

Types Of Pads

There are three types of coverage: Light, Medium and Heavy. There are also variety packs for those unsure of what type of coverage they need, or those who use a variety over the course of their cycle. Light Coverage is panty liner thickness. They can be used as a back-up to a tampon, light/spotting days, or for everyday leak protection. Medium Coverage is similar to the regular maxi that many women buy for use during their normal flow days. Heavy Coverage is a postpartum style pad that would be used for heavy flow (super absorbent) or overnight use.


How To Use / How They Feel

Just as a disposable pad with wings: simply wrap around your underwear and snap underneath. The fleece (fuzzy) side goes next to your clothes and the soft cotton or flannel side goes next to your skin. Cloth pads are plush and more breathable than disposables - no more uncomfortable sweaty feel or chafing!

Simple Laundering Instructions / Sanitizing

Some women soak their pads in cool water until wash day, but this is not necessary. Simply throw them in your laundry and wash on cold (hot water will set stains which is why it is not recommended). Use your typical laundry soap. Toss in the dryer (heat can be as high as 160 degrees on hot dry without shrinking). Simply launder and they are ready again for wear.


How long will they last?

Cloth pads will last many, many years, and can be reused over and over. The average life of a cloth pad is 6-7 years.

How many should I have? 

Most women want 10-20 cloth pads to go completely disposable free (depending on individual flow and cycle length).

How much does this save? 

While there is a bit of upfront cost to starting with cloth, the return is amazing! Not only in comfort and gynecological health, but in money saved. The average American woman spends $150-$200 per year on disposables and will use over 12,000 disposable pads or tampons in her lifetime. The average price for cloth pads is $8 each, although they range from $5-$19 depending on brand, size, absorbency, material and style. If we multiply these averages per year times six (the life span of a cloth pad) an American woman spends $900-$1,200 on disposables or $80-160 on cloth over a six year period. This is a savings of $137-$174 per year.



Chemicals No More

Many women do not realize the amount of chemicals within their store bought disposables, or how they may correlate with gynecological concerns. Disposable pad and tampon companies are not required to list the ingredients on labels. Some irritating or toxic ingredients found in disposables include: aluminum, alcohols, fragrance additives, and hydrocarbons. Tampon bleaching processes leave behind dioxin. Dioxin is a toxic chemical (chlorine-compound) linked to cancer, immune system suppression, ulceration, pelvic inflammatory disease, reduced fertility, changes in hormone levels and endometriosis. Try this simple test: Place a regular tampon in glass of water and return in a few hours. You will find the water cloudy and filled with residue - all things that your body is otherwise absorbing into the soft tissues of the vagina.

Environmental Impact

Cloth pads come with minimum packaging - lowering the cost for fossil fuels and transportation disposables otherwise use. With an average 20-25 pads per cycle, this saves 8,000-10,000 pads over 33 years (an American woman's typical length of menstrual cycles). This equates to 300lbs in a landfill. For each and every woman.



Additional Facts

* Cloth pads are commonly sewn with care, often by work-from-home-moms, and decoratively top stitched for extra absorbency and leak protection.

* Cloth pads consistently lead to less bacterial and yeast infections because cloth is more breathable than disposables and are much less irritating to the body's natural pH and healthy microflora than tampons are.

* In hospitals, blood contaminated waste is handled as a bio-hazard (as it should be) due to the potential for transfer of blood borne illnesses. In our home and businesses, blood is not handled any differently than any other waste. Blood does not pose a health risk (as fecal matter does). Hot water is not necessary and there is no reason not to wash cloth with the rest of the cold laundry.

* Women who use cloth never run out of pads at the worst timing!
I am certain, once you try cloth, you will never go back to store-bought disposables again!  


Veronica Perrin runs Eco Fab Mama, a location for high-quality Work-At-Home-Made products, as well as other eco-friendly products. Cloth pads, nursing pads, wet bags and similar products are currently found at Moms Craft 4 U. Eco Fab Mama on Facebook. Moms Craft 4 U on Facebook.



~~~~

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Snuggle in My Baby

Sung to the nursery rhyme tune, Hush, Little Baby.


Snuggle in my baby - don't you fret.
Momma's gonna keep you
From getting wet.

I'll protect and carry you
Through all the storms
That may come through.

I love you no matter what comes our way,
Each and every night
And every day.

You're my sweet little Bugaboo.
On cue I'll nurse, wear
And dream by you.

Beside gentle mothering wings the years pass by.
And now, come soon,
I'll watch you fly...


~ Danelle Frisbie


~~~~~

The Forced Retraction of My Son

By Danielle Netherton © 2011
Names of UC Davis employees have been withheld for privacy.



I am sharing my horrific experience with forced retraction in the hopes that it will spare another family from the same.

I delivered my son in early 2010 at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, California, due to his 37 week  diagnosis with hydrocephalus. He had a difficult birth, but after a few days in the NICU, his hydrocephalus had not posed a problem and we were sent home. At our two day check-up our pediatrician sent us to the ER where we were transferred by ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento due to our son's ventricular tachycardia in his heart.

After a few days in the PICU, we received a call from Doctor G. informing us that our son had spiked a fever and they needed to do a spinal tap to rule out a life threatening bacteria. We agreed to the spinal tap and immediately went back to the hospital.

When we arrived they were already conducting the spinal tap. We walked around the corner so I wouldn't go crazy hearing my baby scream. Finally, I decided to go to the window to see if they were finished. I saw two nurses, his regular nurse, Nurse G., and another RN assisting her. I had no idea what they were doing at the time as he continued to scream, and I waited outside.

When they walked out, I rushed inside to comfort my son. I changed his diaper and immediately noticed that his penis had been fully retracted and his foreskin was now stuck behind the glans (head of his penis). It was swollen and bleeding. I panicked, immediately got Nurse G., and demanded to know what had happened.

She told me that everything was fine and that they had inserted a catheter. I told her that you are never, under ANY circumstances, supposed to fully retract an intact baby's penis. She told me that she had never heard such a thing before and that it was a routine procedure, done to all the infants that come into the PICU. I was horrified and demanded to see the physician in house.

Doctor G. came to see us, and in witnessing the state of my son's penis, he immediately began manipulating the foreskin that was stuck to try and replace it back over the glans. He had a difficult time and was clearly struggling. After twenty minutes or so, he was finally able to get the foreskin back into its rightful place. I told him that under no circumstances are you ever supposed to fully retract an infant's penis. I mentioned that I had read several books on the subject, including those by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), that said to never, ever do what had just been done to my son. He told me that all I read was incorrect, and that the only reason the AAP tells parents not to retract is because they do not want parents doing it at home and not being able to get the foreskin back over the glans if it gets stuck.

Even though everything inside me was telling me that this was very wrong, I listened to what this doctor said and accepted it at the time. In the moment, I didn't even know whether my baby was going to live or die, so when the doctor told me it would be okay, I believed him.

When we got home a couple of weeks later we had a check up with our regular pediatrician. He examined my son and told us that what had been done to him was terribly wrong. He showed us just how slightly the foreskin needed to be shifted in order to get a catheter in quickly and easily. He said that he did not want to scare us, but that our son could suffer from adhesions later in life as a result of this forced retraction. At that moment, my lingering feelings of distrust and fear were confirmed. I did not know what true pain felt like until I became a mother and felt unable to protect my son. I am so angry over this that sometimes I cannot even cope with what I'm feeling.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the Patient Assistance Department at U.C. Davis and I questioned them about what they were going to do in the future. I asked what I should do in the event that my son develops adhesions or other problems later in life as a result of what they had done to him. They sent me a letter of apology, but never mentioned the forced retraction incident.

At one point I saw my pediatrician because I noticed my son's penis ballooned while urinating. This can be a normal part of the separation process for some boys (who have not been forcibly retracted in the past). However, our doctor examined my son and said that the scarring had caused an obstruction, and that it was very likely caused by this early retraction of his penis.

Because I am also an advocate for families dealing with hydrocephalus, I'd like to mention that a shunt was placed for my son's hydrocephalus at two months and he had a revision at six months. Today he is 15 months old and aside from the ballooning, he is doing well. I know, however, that he will always be scarred as a result of this early treatment at U.C. Davis Medical Center PICU.

I am haunted by the fact that Nurse G. said this practice of forced retraction is routine for the staff to perform on all babies in the PICU. This is happening every single day to babies at U.C. Davis Medical Center - a hospital that is supposed to be one of the best children's hospitals in the country. I am horrified by the number of babies experiencing the same, and I cry each time I think of how my son was violated. I've contacted several attorneys on this case, but at this point, no one has been able to help. I am told that it is not worth the expense of the case because there are plenty of physicians who will take the stand to say that what was done to my son was 'okay.' But it is not okay.

I am left wondering, is there anything we, as concerned and informed parents, can do?

~~~~

Contact UC Davis in support of Netherton and her son, and encourage them to STOP the forcible retraction of infants in their PICU.

UC DAVIS MEDICAL CENTER
2315 STOCKTON BOULEVARD
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA 95817

Department of Pediatrics
Critical Care Medicine
Att: JoAnne Natale PICU Director
Cherie Ginwalla PSCU Medical Director
Debra Bamber, RN Manager, PICU/PSCU

~~~~

For additional information on the prepuce organ (foreskin), intact care, forced retraction, and circumcision, see books, sites, and articles at: Are You Fully Informed?



Wednesday, July 06, 2011

ICE POP JOY!



There are few things better on a hot summer day than a fresh homemade popsicle. But if you are like me, you soon run out of ideas for new and inventive ways to make those ice pops treats unique, tasty and healthy for kids. Anni Daulter comes to the rescue with her phenomenally fun new book, Ice Pop Joy: Organic, Healthy, Fresh, Delicious.

Too often we hear parents beg for ideas, "Help! I can't get my kids to eat anything healthy..." And it is this very thing that inspired mom and author, Daulter, to put together her book packed with original ideas for ice pops. She says, "I wrote this book for parents who stay awake at night worried that their children aren’t getting enough protein or veggies because their kids flat out refuse to eat them. As a mom, I’ve had those concerns and know how frustrating it can be to try to get kids to eat something when they’re not in the mood." Within its beautiful thick pages, cover to cover with vibrant colors and stunning photographs, parents find easy to follow recipes for ice pops that will take the place of refined sugar desserts and snacks lacking nutritional value.

Pure Sunshine, page 26 Ice Pop Joy

Ice Pop Joy has 50 organic, fresh and delectable recipes that the whole family will enjoy. You'll find fruit pops, veggie pops, tofu pops, chocolate pops, yogurt pops and even some of Daulter's 'extra special' creations.

What do we especially love about this book? Aside from the fact that the pages are glossy and super thick -- standing up well to those sticky toddler ice pop making fingers, the recipes themselves are gems! These are not only healthy concoctions that take some of the guess work out of combining ingredients and hoping they'll turn out post freezer-time, but they are also fabulously tasty and get children involved! The toddlers around peaceful parenting have a blast selecting their own recipes from among the beautiful photos of Ice Pop Joy, and the older kids enjoy gathering up ingredients for ice pop creations. In the process, it gives us all a new, healthy food outlook and activity to share.

Summer Splash Tofu, page 80 Ice Pop Joy

"We need as many tools in our parenting bag as we can get. Ice Pop Joy recipes will encourage your kids to try new flavors and appreciate fresh, seasonal ingredients. Before you know it, your kids will be creating their own signature frozen treats filled with their own choice of wholesome ingredients and sharing them with their friends!" says Daulter.  And we've found this to be true! My own little one adores adding one of his favorites (fresh tomatoes!) to some of his recipes. Who'd have thought a three year old would get the whole gang on board with his ice pop tomato obsession?!

Home making of popsicles has long been a favorite in our family. In fact, it is one of the early memories I have of summer time food prep in the kitchen with my mom and our neighborhood gang of young friends. I am sure she would have been thrilled to have Ice Pop Joy on our shelf some 30+ years ago, but you and I are the ones who get to indulge today! Maybe later, we'll take Grandma a homemade sample of one of our new favorite ice pop joys...

Protein Bar, page 133 Ice Pop Joy

Pick up a copy of Ice Pop Joy at your local bookstore, or receive a discounted hardcover copy at the peaceful parenting Amazon shop here. 

Daulter has shared one of her special ice pop recipes with peaceful parenting readers here! See Lavender Flower Power and try your hand at some ice pop making today. 

Visit the Ice Pop Joy home page for additional details and info. Ice Pop Joy on Facebook

To hear more from Anni Daulter, visit the wonderful site for her new Bamboo Magazine: Conscious Family Living. Bamboo Magazine on Facebook


Related Reading:

Breastmilk Popsicles (not a recipe included in or associated with Ice Pop Joy, but something that lactating moms may wish to implement to make their tasty frozen pops even better for little ones!) 

Lavender Flower Power - Daulter shares one of her special Ice Pop Joy recipes with peaceful parenting readers. 

~~~~

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ice Pop Joy: Lavender Flower Power Recipe


Anni Daulter, mother and author of Ice Pop Joy, and creator of Bamboo Magazine, graciously shares one of her healthy, fresh and delicious ice pop recipes with peaceful parenting readers below. Before indulging, please check out more of the background on Ice Pop Joy here. When you and the kiddos make up Lavender Flower Power pops at your house, be sure to snap a picture and share it with us! We'd love to see you in ice pop action. Send to DrMomma.org@gmail.com or post on the peaceful parenting Facebook page. We'll add your photo here and you can be part of the new ice pop joy spreading the nation!


Lavender Flower Power

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon edible lavender flowers
1 teaspoon lavender extract
4 Tablespoons honey
½ cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups whole milk

Preparation:

Combine the lavender flowers, lavender extract, and honey in a bowl and mix together.
Add in the heavy cream and milk and then mix together.
Blend all ingredients together to a smooth texture in blender.
Pour mixture into chosen pop molds.
Add in some additional edible lavender flowers to make them extra special.
Freeze.

HINT: Add in one tiny drop of violet colored food coloring to make the color really “pop!”
Makes 6
4 oz. pops

Pop – Culture Health Tip

Many folks do not know you can consume lavender, but you can, and English Lavender is said to be the most popular edible form. The flavor is a subtle and somewhat acquired taste, that is really refreshing and soothing. Lavender is an herb that is well known to calm the nerves and just the tiniest bit of lavender extract goes a long way.


Pick up a copy of Ice Pop Joy at your local bookstore, or receive a discounted hardcover copy at the peaceful parenting Amazon shop here.  

Visit the Ice Pop Joy home page for additional details and info. Ice Pop Joy on Facebook

To hear more from Anni Daulter, visit the wonderful site for her new Bamboo Magazine: Conscious Family LivingBamboo Magazine on Facebook


Related Reading:

Breastmilk Popsicles (not a recipe included in or associated with Ice Pop Joy, but something that lactating moms may wish to implement to make their tasty frozen pops even better for little ones!) 

Ice Pop Joy! peaceful parenting review of Daulter's book. 

~~~~

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