Breaking Birth

By Danelle Frisbie © 2013

Breaking Birth

My body was made to birth. 
strong hips
                  powerful muscles
                            instincts fine tuned. 

My spirit has grown to birth. 
                                   self-trusting and sure. 

My mind knows how to birth. 
            taking a backseat 
                           as primal movements
                         take the reins. 

And yet I was not designed to birth
between these hospital walls. 

Monitors mess up my flow. 
IVs cramp my free movement. 
Food and drink restriction famish my muscles.
This gown cramps my urges.  
My body is stepped upon. 
My spirit is caged. 
My mind is wrecked with the havoc of intervention. 

Who are these people? 
Each one I do not know. 
Do not trust. 
Did not invite. 

What is all THIS that breaks apart my birthing circle?
My place of peace... 

Within these walls I cannot do what I was made to do.
I cannot be who I was made to be. 

Birthing Goddess. 

I was made to birth. 
I trust my birth. 

...but not within the confines of these hospital walls. 

~Danelle Frisbie 


Sending out a little holiday cheer...

☃ In years past we have loved hearing from families across the globe who have stumbled into peaceful parenting and had their lives positively impacted in one fashion or another. It has been a blessing to correspond with many of you, and we always look forward to the encouraging doorway of smiling faces when cards and pictures begin to come in at this time of the year.

If you would like to send us your card/photo this season, we would love to 'meet' your family and hear of the ways in which peaceful parenting has come into your life. ❤

We invite you to write to:

 Peaceful Parenting
 P.O. Box 1302
 Virginia Beach, VA 23451

❄ Have a blessed holiday season. ❄


When Things Get Physical: Hitting, Throwing, Kicking and Biting

Excerpt from "When Things Get Physical: Hitting, Throwing, Kicking and Biting" in Chapter Nine of L.R. Knost's latest book, The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline. Find additional resources from Knost at the end of this article.

The concept of using consequences, physical or otherwise, as a deterrent for hitting is based on the misconception that small children have the capacity for forethought (i.e. “If I hit, I will get in trouble. Therefore I will not hit.”) and that they are choosing to disobey. As mentioned in [Chapter Eight], though, the prefrontal cortex, where reasoning, logic, and forethought take place, is highly immature in toddlers and preschoolers and actually doesn’t develop fully until the mid-twenties. Small children act instinctively and impulsively even when not stressed simply because that is what they are developmentally capable of, but when they are stressed, even the small amount of self-control they may have attained flies right out the window, and before they know it they’ve reacted physically to their stress.

The plain truth is, though, that even if punishment was effective as a deterrent, a gentle response to physical aggression is literally the only response that a parent can make that won’t actually reinforce the aggression. Responding with counter-aggression by powering-up on a child, whether physically or verbally, merely reinforces the idea that ‘might makes right’ and that whoever is the dominant figure at any given moment has the right to force others to bend to their will.

Obviously, parents who practice gentle discipline don’t believe that hitting a child to teach them not to hit others is an appropriate or even logical option. But knowing that they don’t want to resort to physical punishment and knowing what to do instead are two different things entirely! So, what other options does a gentle parent have when confronted with a little one who has started lashing out physically whether from anger, frustration, or excitement?

1. Supervision! Supervision! Supervision! When you have a child who is acting out physically, it’s vital to remain in visual contact with them whenever they are with other children. Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important not to leave small children alone with a child who is struggling with physical aggression. Some steps you can take are to either take the child with you when you have to leave the room, take the other child/children with you, or use baby gates to section off areas where you can separate the children to play (in a non-punitive manner) when you have to be out of visual range momentarily.

2. Intervention. Consistent intervention by an observant parent, preferably before the situation escalates to physical aggression, is essential in order to protect the other children. When you see your child heading toward a physical response to a situation, reminding them to use their words or offering a solution to the problem will often help avert a lash out. If your child has already started to become physical, but hasn’t fully escalated, reminding them to “Use your gentle hands” will give them a little head’s up that they are headed in the wrong direction and give them an opportunity to redirect themselves. Suggesting alternative options will equip your child with the tools they need to handle their feelings in acceptable ways.

3. Prevention. If scratching or biting are issues, be sure to keep your little one’s nails trimmed and try to stay on top of teething pain. When it comes to teething, small children are frequently either dealing with swollen gums from a tooth starting to come in or one that has just come in, so being aware of that and using amber necklaces, keeping a supply of damp, frozen washcloths available, and giving a bit of ibuprofen when needed are good preventatives to biting.

4. Remind and redirect. If hitting, biting, scratching, etc. are the result of over-exuberance, consistently reminding a little one to “Use your gentle hands. Can you show me your gentle hands?” or that “Teeth are for smiling, not biting. Can you show me your smile?” and offering specific alternatives such as clapping their hands to show their excitement will help to redirect them to more appropriate expressions of their big emotions.

5. Respect. Respecting a child’s possessions helps them to share by offering them the chance to choose. Feeling more in control of what does or does not need to be shared is a proactive step toward a child feeling more in control of their body and impulses. You might allow their room to be off limits to their siblings or possibly have a ‘special’ toy box where they can keep a select few toys that they don’t have to share, but can only play with in their room or when the other children are sleeping or otherwise occupied. If a situation arises where they aren’t willing to share something, they can have the option to choose to put that toy in the ‘special’ toy box, but will need to decide which toy to take out of the box to share in its place.

6. Outlets. Children who feel out-of-control need outlets for their big feelings. If they’re angry, they can go to their room and punch a bop bag or go outside and throw or kick a ball around. But if they’re headed toward a meltdown, they may need help processing their feelings, and a Calm-Me-Jar and time-in (see Chapter Eight) may be the best option.

7. Practice. Role playing can be helpful with a child who repeatedly lapses into physical aggression. You can take turns being the ‘hit-ee’ and ‘hitter’ (avoid using labels such as ‘victim’ and ‘aggressor’ with your child) and show them different ways of handling situations that you know have caused them difficulties in the past.

8. Silliness. One of my favorite tools when dealing with toddler’s and preschooler’s aggression is playing the ‘I’m the boss of you, hands!’ game (can also be used for teeth, feet, etc.) in which I remind them that they are the ‘boss’ of their hands and ask them to tell their hands what they can or cannot do. (i.e. Me: “What are you going to tell your hands if they try to snatch a toy?” Child: “I’ll tell them, ‘No way, hands! I’m the boss of you!”) Little ones love the idea of being the boss and generally respond well to this type of play.

 9. More silliness. For younger, non-verbal children who may not be ready for the “I’m the boss of you, hands!” game yet, if they’ve hit, pinched, snatched, etc. try ‘checking’ to see if they have gentle hands by exaggeratedly examining their hands and then kissing each palm and declaring, “Yep, that’s a gentle hand, all right!” The positive, declarative statement will help them to develop a positive self-image and set the foundation for self-control as they grow up believing that, yes, they are good and gentle little people!

10. Modeling. If your child has already hit someone, you will need to first address the injured child’s needs. If you’re angry with your child for hitting, and you very well may be, it’s okay to share that with them in a calm voice and let them know that you need a moment to console the injured child and to calm down before you will be ready to talk with them. What you are actually doing is modeling self-control and coping mechanisms, important components for your child to learn in order to master their impulse to lash out.

11. Teaching empathy. Reflect what the other person might be feeling, “It hurts your sister when you scratch her. Why don’t we go ask her if she’s okay? If she has an owie, we might need to get a bandage for her.” It’s very intriguing for little ones to feel like they can ‘fix’ something, and often the idea that they have that kind of power makes them more likely to feel they have the power to use their gentle hands, too. The positive impact of learning to think and care about the feelings of others, though, is the real power that will enable them to begin to control the impulse to lash out.

12. Verbalize. Offering words to express your child’s feelings of anger or frustration when they have lashed out (i.e. “I see that you don’t want to share the ball. That makes you angry. I’m sorry you’re angry, but I can’t let you hit. What can you do instead of hitting when you’re angry?”) will help your child learn how to verbalize their feelings over time instead of simply acting on them as well as reminding them of the options you’ve provided for them to redirect their big feelings into acceptable outlets.

13. A place for time-outs. When a toy is misused (i.e. thrown, used to hit, etc.) and a gentle redirection has already been given, another option is to try the ‘Time-Out Toy Box.’ Little ones generally find the concept of a toy being put in time-out rather humorous and go along with the removal without a fuss. When your child decides that the toy is ready to behave, you can have your little one tell the toy it has to listen to them because they are the boss. Again, humor is a great communicator! Remember, though to listen and be flexible. If the removal of a toy brings about a strong negative response, a time-in with your little one might be needed (see Chapter Eight). Remaining in-tune with your child will help you to read the situation and respond appropriately.

14. Expectations. It’s important in all aspects of parenting to frequently take a step back and examine your expectations to make sure that they are reasonable in regard to your child’s age, developmental stage, temperament, etc. Unrealistic expectations can put significant pressure on a child and cause a great deal of frustration and stress which can lead to aggressive behaviors as well as conflict in your parent/child relationship.

15. Honesty. If physical punishment has been a part of your parenting, removing that entirely from your parenting toolbox is a great start toward easing some of the anger, stress, and frustration that is fueling your child’s aggression. Being honest with your child about your own struggles with handling things physically as well as apologizing for using threats, intimidation, and physical pain to control them in the past will begin the healing process in your relationship.

Always try to keep in mind that behaviors are communication. Listening ‘between the lines’ to your child’s aggression will help you to discern whether your child’s behavior is communicating an unmet need such as hunger, a nap, or attention - (yes, attention is a valid need!) - or if they are communicating a big emotion that they’re having trouble processing or if they are simply out of their depth and need an adult to help them handle a situation. Children are actually great communicators, just not necessarily verbally. It’s up to us adults to ‘listen’ carefully, empathetically, and calmly to our children’s behavior and then offer them our gentle guidance, wisdom, and support.

Read more from L.R. Knost:



New book trailer and author interviews here

Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages

The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline

Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood

Gentle Parenting Workshop 1: Getting Started on Your Gentle Journey (Kindle)

Petey's Listening Ears (For Children)

Further resources and books on gentle discipline here.


International Babywearing Symbol

We've waited a long time to see an International Babywearing Symbol emerge - one that was copyright free and fair-use for all supporters of babywearing around the globe. This year, just in time for World Babywearing Week, Jessika Bailey, Publisher and Editor in Chief of Natural Mother Magazine, created a symbol for this very purpose. And we love it! The symbol was introduced to the parenting community at large earlier this week, and advocates across several social media outlets have changed their profile pictures to display the new symbol. One babywearing company - Tula Baby Carriers - requested permission to slightly alter the symbol and is currently sporting a fun babywearing logo 'with ears.'

Bailey's creation comes upon the heels of several years of personal babywearing experience. Her two youngest children are close in age, and because of this, Bailey says babywearing "literally saved me, and it saved my kids. It was the only way to make it through any given day. Babywearing - and tandem nursing!"

When discussing the importance of having an International Babywearing Symbol, Bailey says that during the years she worked as a blogger, and today with Natural Mother Magazine, there were many times she has searched high and low for a babywearing symbol that would be easily recognizable by everyone, and also fit well alongside the International Breastfeeding Symbol and the International Symbol of Genital Autonomy. "I am not one to wait around for someone else to get things done, so I did it myself!" says Bailey. She is hoping that this symbol will be used across the board to raise awareness of the many benefits of babywearing.

The symbol is Creative Commons licensed - which means that anyone is welcome to use the symbol on their own creations and in their babywearing advocacy endeavors. Bailey asks that if and when credit can be given for the symbol, it is cited as being from Natural Mother Magazine, but she recognizes this is not always possible. "It isn't about me or Natural Mother Magazine, it's about spreading awareness, and having a symbol that is easily recognizable to do that." Bailey continues, "This is my first real creation of a logo, and hope to see it used far and wide!" We are certain that it will be.

If you are wishing to share a little babywearing love in your life, we invite you to use any of our colored variations of the International Babywearing Symbol below. You can also learn more from Bailey at the Natural Mother Magazine Facebook page, and at NMM's homepage. Back issues of the magazine are free to read, and we'd encourage you to check them out! If you're in the mood to win some babywearing goods, this weekend only you can also enter the Babywearing Giveaway where 8 winners will be drawn at random on Sunday night:!international-babywearing-week-giveaway-/c1otj

Hope your babywearing days ahead are blessed and beautiful! ❤

Related reading at the Babywearing Resource Page.

Tshirt from Made By Momma's Babywearing Collection

Bumper stickers available at the Info Cards Tab


Why Storytelling is Better than Lecturing

By David Sewell McCann © 2013
Originally published at The Good Men Project
Read more from McCann.

He left his sneakers out in the rain again. She will not leave her sister alone. He is terrified of spiders. She refuses to go to her annual checkup with the doctor. This is all normal everyday stuff for moms and dads everywhere. Fears, frustrations, anxieties, excitements, habits and dynamics and—as parents—we intervene.

For dads this can often be a lecture. We reason with our children. We lay out the ‘reality’ that most spiders are not dangerous and that in fact, they are vital in the ecosystem. We explain that their sister is much smaller and that hitting them is never OK— especially with something hard like a fisher price telephone. We give them a very reasonable argument for changing their behavior, and sometimes they nod their heads and agree: they will try harder, they won’t do it again, they won’t be afraid next time, they will do what you ask.

But seldom does anything change. This rarely even works with adults, let’s face it. Still afraid of speaking publicly? Lost the keys again? Responding defensively to constructive criticism?

There is an alternative parenting technique that is hardly new. It has been used since our species could speak, and it is not only effective, it is delightful: Storytelling. We are wired for it—literally. The neuroscience is conclusive—we use stories to build our realities and make sense of them. Think about your day—how much of what you said today, was a story? Most of it? All of it? When your spouse asked you about your day, your answer was a story. When your friend asked about the goings on in Syria or Boulder or Kenya, your answer was a story.

So within the context of parenting—how is this not the go-to parenting tool of our time? Quite simply: fear. We are afraid we won’t know what story to tell. We are afraid we will tell a boring or bad story. We are afraid our children will screw up their faces and say, "that was dumb."

To these fears, I say, "There was once a man who was afraid to talk. He was worried about what it would sound like—would he growl? Would he hoot? Would he squawk? But then, one day he saw that a child was about to fall into a trap he himself made to catch coyotes. The child was too far away to reach so he finally called out, 'Stop!' The child stopped. The child was fine—and this was because of what he had spoken."

So that was a story. The intention was to get you to get past your fear, reframe storytelling, and then motivate you to open your mouth and speak. Is your child afraid of the dark? Tell them a story about a mouse who has the same fear and then—because darkness is a part of life—he gets over it. Just make it up and keep talking until the story it over. It’s that simple. It doesn’t need to be profound or even insightful. You just need to show your child that you care enough to try.

And you will be amazed. Sometimes a single story can make all the difference. Bullying? Tell a story. Moving to a new home? Tell a story. Dog is going to be put to sleep? Tell a story. Explain later, if you have to—but understand that through storytelling, you are speaking their language. The language of dreams. The language of possibility. Plus, it is a lot of fun.


Trusting Birth: 43 Weeks of Faith

By Dr. Christopher Stroud, MD, FACOG
Home page:

This handsome young man is Luis Alan and at birth he weighed 10 pounds, 1 ounce. I had the pleasure of attending his birth recently and I just had to share a few things about it with you.

Luis is the first-born to his mother and, despite his impressive size, was born vaginally. That alone is certainly interesting, but the real story here is of his mother’s perseverance and faith in herself. You see, on the day of Luis’ birth, his mother was 43 weeks pregnant, something rarely seen any more. We are often a community of convenient inductions of labor. That is to say, many in our community elect to have labor induced at a convenient time; at a time that works best for them, for their physician, perhaps for their family members, for a variety of reasons. Elective induction of labor is somewhat of a community norm.

Luis’ mom knew from the beginning of her pregnancy that something was wrong with trying to take charge of an otherwise natural process; that there had to be risks with attempting to take charge of labor. She made it clear to me at our first meeting that she preferred to avoid induction of labor unless there was a clear indication otherwise. Her pregnancy progressed uneventfully; even remarkably unremarkable some would say. As she approached her due date she didn’t show frustration or concern. When she was one week past her due date many of the women around her began to ask why she wasn’t being induced and she explained that there was nothing magic about the due date and that we had a plan to, “watch and wait.”

Then when she was two weeks past her due date the number of those around her feeling compelled to share their opinion that she should be induced grew, but she elected to, “Watch and wait.” She would always ask me, “Is there any sign that something is wrong with my baby? Is there any reason we should induce labor other than the fact that we’ve passed my due date?” My answer was, “No.” So we watched and we waited. When we found ourselves headed towards the forty-third week of her pregnancy she remained unshaken in her desire to avoid induction of labor if possible. She had several false alarms and trips to labor and delivery thinking (hoping) she was in labor. On one such trip she encountered another physician who tried hard to convince her to be induced because of her advanced gestational age, even suggesting it was, “Unsafe to let the pregnancy continue.” She said, “No thanks,” and went home.

We monitored her every-other-day during the last week so to make certain everything was fine with Luis and just when it looked like the pregnancy would never end she came to the hospital in actual labor one evening. But that’s not the end of the amazing story of her perseverance…

Luis’ labor was not your average labor, just as the pregnancy wasn’t an average pregnancy. This labor was slow, by any definition of slow. Hours upon hours went by with little, if any change. We talked about using medications to augment her dysfunctional labor pattern and she said, “Let’s just wait,” so we waited. We waited all through the night and eventually used a very small dose of an oral medication just to help the process along over the final phase of labor. She finally became fully dilated and after several hours of very hard work, delivered this beautiful baby, Luis.

This birth is a story of perseverance, confidence, and faith. She had such unshakable faith in her ability to do what she was so masterfully created to do: to give birth. Despite a barrage of advice to the contrary from those around her, she held fast to what she knew was right. She consulted with me to confirm that Luis was safe and that she was healthy, and then she and her husband made an informed decision to do what they believed was right: to watch and wait. That decision saved them, in my opinion, from what could have easily resulted in a certain cesarean section.

I spend a lot of time and energy talking about vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) and how to improve one’s chances of a successful VBAC. But this birth should remind us that the best way to approach VBAC is not to approach it - by never having the first cesarean section. In the vast majority of cases that means avoiding induction of labor if at all possible. Patience, faith in your body and its ability to do what it’s perfectly designed to do, and a partnership with a healthcare provider that will help you achieve the birth experience you desire are your most effective tools in the fight to avoid unnecessary cesarean sections. There are numerous times when labor should be induced; induction of labor is not evil in and of itself. The problem lies with the unnecessary induction of labor.

I am blessed to participate in some truly wonderful pregnancy and birth experiences. I will not soon forget the time I spent with Luis and his parents...

Dr. Christopher Stroud is a Board Certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist with practices in Fort Wayne and Auburn, Indiana. Part of his mission, he states, is to "care for women throughout the continuum of their lives in a way that is scientifically and morally sound." He can be contacted via his website,, via email at or on the Facebook page for his practice. 

Learn more: 

Using Formula Like 'Similac for Supplementation' Decreases Milk Supply

On this Day 6 of World Breastfeeding Week a confounding ad was sent to our inbox. It was highlighting the pseudo 'benefits' of a new Abbott product - Similac for Supplementation - that is marketed specifically to women who state that they are planning to breastfeed, or are breastfeeding, their babies.

Several peaceful parenting mothers have told us that when they fill out paperwork with their (U.S.) hospital to say they plan to breastfeed, they are given a "Breastfeeding Bag" from Similac instead of the ubiquitous formula bag. In this bag are samples of such things like Similac for Supplementation, along with other 'in case it doesn't work out...' items and literature.

If ever there was a time to equip mothers with simple, usable, applicable facts about human lactation and their ability to produce more than enough milk for their babies, as well as how to tip the scales in favor of breastfeeding success, it would be in these early prenatal and postnatal days. The first 40 days are monumentally important for building a healthy milk supply and getting off to a good start, and anything that derails a mother in these first vital weeks can have a lasting and negative impact on her breastfeeding relationship.

What floored us most about this particular ad is that an Abbott sponsored survey is being used as 'evidence' that supplementing with their new product will increase breastfeeding duration. Note that these surveys are typically given to an audience already connected with the company - often those using formula to begin with - or those who are still in their early breastfeeding days. Survey questions are also worded in such a way that supplementation is presented in a positive light, "Select how strongly you agree with the following statements..." "Using some formula allowed me to continue to give my baby breastmilk." Agree? Slightly Agree? Strongly Agree? Neutral? Your checked box on this survey to obtain your next free sample will go into the database to be used as support for the next product line.

This is not just poorly based in science, but is an overt misleading of new mothers. Advertising that is downright deceitful.

To maintain a full supply of human milk (and not much is needed in the early weeks of babyhood) a mother must drain her breasts often to create a demand. As simple and non-complex as it sounds, that is the very basic, fundamental rule of milk production: increased demand = increased supply. When you decrease the demand by supplementing (not as much milk is needed to feed baby when s/he is being filled with something else or when longer intervals pass between feeds) then supply follows suit and decreases as well. A supplementing mom quickly finds that her milk supply dwindles further, and she becomes frustrated and/or sad that breastfeeding "just isn't working out" for her and her baby.

One component of milk production in mammals is termed the Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). In Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence, Marsha Walker explains, "FIL is an active whey protein that inhibits milk secretion as alveoli become distended and milk is not removed. Its concentration increases with longer periods of milk accumulation, down regulating milk production in a chemical feedback loop." In this fashion, when products like Similac for Supplementation are used, despite their faulty marketing to mothers who desire to continue to nurse their babies, there is a negative impact on milk production and a greater likelihood of maternal anxiety over supply, followed by increased risk of early termination of breastfeeding altogether.

This same Similac for Supplementation ad (above) tells new mothers that their product has "more prebiotics than any other Similac formula" and that these prebiotics will have a better digestive effect (softer stools) than babies fed other formulas. The product is a far, far cry from human milk in every component of human nutrition and development - including immunology and neurology. Less constipation due to artificial feeding as the result of chemically processed prebiotics may have its benefits for those who cannot access human milk (this has yet to be determined) - but marketing a detrimental product to the mothers of babies already receiving the food made perfectly for their health and wellbeing is destructive and irresponsible.


1) Walker M: Influence of the maternal anatomy and physiology on lactation. In Breastfeeding Management for the Clinician: Using the Evidence. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2006:51-82.

Contact Similac directly:

Related Reading:

Breastfeeding Made Simple (book)

Nursing Mother, Working Mother (book)

Making More Milk (book)

The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business (book)

Formula For Disaster (film)

The Baby Bond (book)

Breastfeeding Advocacy and Formula Feeding Guilt (article)

Lactation Cookies: Increasing Milk Supply (article)

Additional good breastfeeding books

Breastfeeding Resource Page


My Son and His Beautiful Shoes

By Danelle Day © 2013

My son loves pink. Some days more so than any one of his other favorite colors. At almost-5-years-old his passion for 'beautiful things' has yet to diminish, and I love this about him. So I should have been better prepared for this day to eventually arrive... the day when another almost-5-year-old boy announced boldly to my son that what he likes, or what he wears, or what he finds 'beautiful' is NOT for boys, but for girls.


And it happened today. He wore his 'beautiful shoes' (the shoes that he picked out himself while we were traveling - those he says are his most favorite shoes ever, in the whole wide world - with pink and yellow and blue stars and stripes and splashes) to VBS for the second time. The first time he came home to tell me that his teacher told him she L-O-V-E-D his shoes. He was so happy. And proud. After all, he had scoured the whole store to find this one and only pair that fit his big, strong, wide Size 12 feet perfectly. And they weren't 'boring' like all the black and grey and dark blue shoes he was usually presented with.

Tonight, however, he came home to tell me that another boy had announced while behind him in line for the drinking fountain, "Your shoes are GIRL shoes!"

"How did you respond to him?" I asked, somewhat afraid of the answer, and at the same time trying to formulate my own thoughts and reactions into the most empowering mom-response for my 4 year old son... I didn't want to mess this up. And I was surprised by how unsure I was of the very best things to say when I - of all people - should know what to say. I had completed a graduate degree in Women's & Gender Studies and had always been positively certain I'd never have a child who was boxed or limited by others' cultural stereotypes and ignorant biases. Now here we stand, my son and I together with his beautiful shoes...

"I was drinking water when he said it," my son responded. "So I didn't say anything."

"You ignored him?" I asked. "Yes," he said, and continued, "Mom, can boys wear girl shoes?"

[Oh, stab through the gender conscious heart. From just one line, from just one little person, he received the message loud and clear that his shoes were made only for girls - and not made for him. Maybe, as a boy, he wasn't deserving of such beautiful shoes...]

"Honey, all shoes are made for all people - they are just shoes. Beautiful shoes are made for everyone. There is no such thing as 'girl shoes' and 'boy shoes' -- just shoes that we each get to look over and pick from -- the ones we love the most, the ones that feel good on our feet, and the ones we find fun to wear. Men and women, boys and girls, we can all wear any shoes we wish to wear."

"Do you sometimes wear Daddy's flip flops?" he asked. "Of course - they are fun and cushy on my feet," I smiled, knowing, however, that this is limited to quick runs outside due to our foot size difference...

"Would Daddy wear your shoes?" my son continued. "Sure he would - if his feet weren't so giant!" And we both laughed. Then I remembered an old photo I have of his father sporting my ultra-fabulous-flower-flip-flops. "Look at these beauties on Daddy's feet!" I smiled.

"Ohh... I want those shoes!" my son said.

Phew, maybe we were moving past the stereotypes.

"Yeah... I don't know why that boy said that," my son seemed to be reflecting again on what happened.

"I don't know either," I said. "Maybe that boy was just a little jealous of your shoes because they are so cool!  Maybe no one ever gave him beautiful shoes to wear. If someone says something like that again, you can just say, 'That's silly. Beautiful shoes are for everybody.'"

My son smiled, "I know, Mom!"


The day following this discussion I was a little curious to see if my son would grab his beautiful shoes to wear as quickly when we got ready to go out on an adventure at the aquarium. I thought he may opt instead for his blue or grey shoes... But that didn't happen. He brought me his pink socks (well worn as they are one of two favorite pairs in his sock drawer) and his beautiful shoes and we slipped them on without a second thought.

I pray I can raise a son who is both wise and compassionate, strong and gentle. One who grows into a man who is sure of himself to the core, and able to empower others around him with this same steadfast consciousness.

What about you? How do you handle gender stereotypes as they are pushed upon your little ones? I am always interested to hear how other well-informed parents maneuver through the muck of cultural expectations our children face at such young ages in society.


Why I no longer believe babies should cry themselves to sleep

By Gabor Maté
Originally published at Globe and Mail

'Some of our friends see us as weak parents because we haven't Ferberized our children," says my niece Rachel Maté, a 33-year-old Vancouver lawyer and mother of two. " 'You're letting your baby control your lives,' they argue. But it would break my heart to let my baby cry without comforting her."

Named after Dr. Richard Ferber, the pediatric sleep expert quoted in a previous 2006 article on parents who share their beds with their children, Ferberization is the process of "training" an infant to sleep by ignoring her crying. As a family physician, I used to advocate the Ferber technique and, as a parent, practised it myself. Since then, I have come to believe that the method is harmful to infant development and to a child's long-term emotional health.

Ferberization seems simple: "After about one week, your infant will learn that crying earns nothing more than a brief check from you, and isn't worth the effort. She'll learn to fall asleep on her own, without your help," reads Dr. Ferber's advice. The question is, what else does a baby learn when treated this way and what is the impact of such learning?

People cannot consciously recall what they "learned" in the first year of life, because the brain structures that store narrative memory are not yet developed. But neuropsychological research has established that human beings have a far more powerful memory system imprinted in their nervous systems called intrinsic memory. Intrinsic memory encodes the emotional aspects of early experience, mostly in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. These emotional memories may last a lifetime. Without any recall of the events that originally encoded them, they serve as a template for how we perceive the world and how we react to later occurrences.

Is the world a friendly and nurturing place, or an indifferent or even hostile one? Can we trust other human beings to recognize, understand and honour our needs, or do we have to shut down emotionally to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable? These are fundamental questions that we resolve largely with our implicit memory system rather than with our conscious minds. As psychologist and leading memory researcher Daniel Schacter has written, intrinsic memory is active "when people are influenced by past experience without any awareness that they are remembering."

The implicit message an infant receives from having her cries ignored is that the world -- as represented by her caregivers -- is indifferent to her feelings. That is not at all what loving parents intend.

Unfortunately, it's not parental intentions that a baby integrates into her world view, but how parents respond to her. This is why, if I could relive my life, I would do much of my parenting differently.

When the infant falls asleep after a period of wailing and frustrated cries for help, it is not that she has learned the "skill" of falling asleep. What has happened is that her brain, to escape the overwhelming pain of abandonment, shuts down. It's an automatic neurological mechanism. In effect, the baby gives up. The short-term goal of the exhausted parents has been achieved, but at the price of harming the child's long-term emotional vulnerability. Encoded in her cortex is an implicit sense of a non-caring universe.

The concepts behind Ferberization precede the publication of Dr. Ferber's 1985 bestseller Solve Your Child's Sleep Problem. Forty years earlier, Benjamin Spock proposed the very same approach in his seminal book Baby and Child Care. The cure for what Dr. Spock called "chronic resistance to sleep in infancy" is straightforward. The way to ensure that the infant doesn't "get away with such tyranny," he wrote, was to "say good night affectionately but firmly, walk out of the room, and don't go back."

Dr. Spock was a great pioneer of humane and loving child rearing and much of his advice refuted the harsh Victorian practices prevalent in his days. On this sleep issue, however, he ignored his own admonition that parents should trust their own instincts and gut feelings and not defer to the opinion of experts.

Monica Moster, an 80-year-old grandmother of seven, recalls what it felt like for her to follow such advice with her own children. "It was torture for me to do it," she says. "It went against all my motherly emotions."

Rachel Maté reports that even some of her friends who believe in Ferberization have a hard time of it. "I know women who have to stand in the shower with their hands over their ears so they can't hear their baby crying. It's traumatic not just to baby, but also to parent."

In our stressed society, time is at a premium. Beholden to our worldly schedules, we try to adapt our children to our needs, rather than serving theirs. More "primitive" aboriginal peoples in Africa and North and South America kept their infants with them at all times. They had not yet learned to suppress their parenting instincts.

The baby who cries for the parent is not engaging in "tyranny," she is expressing her deepest need -- emotional and physical contact with the parent. The deceptive convenience of Ferberization is one more way in which our society fails the needs of the developing child.

Vancouver physician, Gabor Maté, is the co-author of Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

Sleep Training Research:

Healthy Baby Sleep Resources:


To the (Happily) Circumcised American Man

By Ethan Wright © 2013

Dear Sir:

If you are like me, you were circumcised at birth by a medical professional, in a hospital or a clinic of some kind. Your parents made the decision to have your foreskin amputated, and the doctor (or, perhaps, the nurse) performed the procedure without asking any questions, and without providing your parents with any information about what circumcision truly entailed. Of course, you don't remember any of this, because you were just a baby at the time. Your brain was too raw, and your memory-making faculties were not yet sharply defined. Nevertheless, the fact remains that you grew up not with the penis you were born with, but with a sculpted, man-made one -- the only unnatural thing on your otherwise un-altered body.

When you first learned of your own circumcision, you were somewhat confused, but came to accept it through the indifferent attitudes of those around you. You considered it an oddity, but believed that your parents would never have done something to you unless it was an indisputably good thing. You remained unsure of precisely what the foreskin was, because no one ever bothered to explain it you; indeed, most of the people you looked up to were unsure of it themselves. You resisted the urge to question the the procedure, and to ask why it was done to you, because you believed that whatever the reasons were, they must have been good ones. You never suspected that your native country, which you had been taught was in many ways an ideal society, would ever have allowed anyone to hurt you - especially when you were an innocent, defenseless newborn.

The unfortunate truth is that you were circumcised for the painfully simple reason that you were born in the United States of America, and that genital cutting has been a cultural norm here. There is no other 'reason,' just as there is no 'reason' why so many children around the world are unfairly condemned to death by starvation before they reach the age of ten. Go anywhere else in the so-called 'developed' world, and you will see that the vast majority of men are intact (never having been circumcised). Our country is unique in its promotion of this bizarre surgery. We don't see it as mutilation, for the same reason that the men and women of Sierra Leone don't feel that they are mutilated: we are used to it. It's hard to imagine, at first, that something so evil could have become acceptable to us through ubiquity alone, but one needs merely to take a retrospective glance at the horrors of the slave trade, or the atrocities of the Holocaust, to understand that ubiquity is sometimes all it takes to normalize the outlandish, to trivialize the inhumane.

As I stated above, the USA stands alone among 'developed' nations in its obsession with the compulsory amputation of the prepuces of its infant males. The benefits of the practice are hugely overblown, to the extent that many are simply invented out of thin air. The undeniable (yet heavily obscured) truth is that, whatever its supposed long-term benefits may be, circumcision constitutes a dramatic and irreversible alteration - nay, an inhibition - of a man's sexuality, achieved through the removal of a highly specialized, multi-purpose organ which has been carefully honed through millions of years of evolution to make sex as facile and as pleasurable as possible.

Allow me to take a guess at what you are thinking in this moment: "But the point of circumcision THESE days isn't to inhibit male sexuality! We do it for a number of valid reasons. We do it because it makes the penis cleaner. We do it because it lowers the risk of contracting and transmitting STIs when boys become sexually active. And we do it for aesthetic reasons - the circumcised penis is far more pleasing to the eye." I make the claim that all of this is pure and utter bunk from top to bottom, and none of these so-called 'reasons' is what really motivates the procedure. The true historical explanation for why this practice persists is far more pernicious than any of the backwards, vanilla justifications we have created for it.

The United States began its tradition of male circumcision with the explicit and unabashed intention of punishing the male organ, and suppressing our natural inclination to release sexual energy through masturbation. The practice persists because men and women who were wronged are more likely to trivialize what happened to them, and to inflict it on their own children. Whatever conscious justifications the modern parent may have for cutting their baby boy are a distraction from the true, historical purpose of it: to crush his sexuality, to obfuscate his manhood, to kill his spirit and virility forever. If this were not the true intent of the original proponents of circumcision, it never would have caught on, because it is the one thing that circumcision DOES achieve with an astoundingly high rate of success.

Another thought you might have: "But I was circumcised, and I don't feel I was sexually damaged." I'm sorry to be the one to inform you of this, but you were damaged, undeniably and irreversibly. You were damaged because healthy tissue was ripped and sliced away from your penis for no medical reason. You were damaged because your foreskin, which contains the majority of highly specialized, fine-touch nerve endings in your penis, was amputated, and as a result, you will never know what it would have felt like to have your whole body intact. You were damaged because you will never experience the ease of masturbation that comes with having a highly sensitive, motile tube of skin capable of massaging your entire sexual organ at once. You were damaged because you were taken from your mother's arms, strapped down on a table, and violated on the most intimate and sensitive part of your entire body, before you were able to speak, walk, or even see properly.

Luckily, the human body has an astounding way of compensating for all this damage, both mentally and physically. It is capable of clotting up the wound so you don't bleed to death. It is capable of relocating sexual pleasure so that you CAN still achieve orgasm. It is capable of growing new skin so that you don't hurt yourself during masturbation. And it is capable of suppressing painful memories that would haunt you forever if you were to remember them. But you can't regain what you lost, and that fact will never go away. It will remain true till the day you die, and you'll only ever get one life. This is your only chance to get a taste of what it means to be alive. Your reality is cruel and devastating: a whole human body is something you were simply not allowed to have in your short time on Earth, because you were born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong sexual organs.

If you choose to face this reality, life is soon going to become nearly unbearable. As the days, weeks, and months go by, you will feel overwhelmed with painful emotions, including denial, anger, sadness, resentment, embarrassment, and disbelief. You may feel the need to confront your parents about what they did to you, and your parents may not want to hear it. Be prepared for all of this. Be prepared to spend some time mourning for what was taken from you, something beyond a piece of flesh; a piece of your humanity was stolen, and you can never get it back. This is as brutal as it gets. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't. Don't allow anybody to tell you that you were not violated. They are wrong, and you are right. If you believe in your pain, and allow yourself to experience it fully, you will find your way back to sanity. Keep sharing your feelings with everybody, including those who ridicule you. Don't be afraid of the backlash. It will get better.

If you choose to deny what I have written here, I beg you to reconsider if you ever are lucky enough to have a baby boy of your own. He will depend on you like no one else in the world ever will, and it is your duty to protect him from harm, even if his own government callously refuses to grant him that protection. You have a responsibility as a man, and as a human being, to question the society you live in, and to decide for yourself what is acceptable and what is reprehensible.

More Men Speak on Infant Genital Cutting

Infant Circumcision
Video by physician for educational purposes.

Georgetown University Lecture on Circumcision
Dr. Ryan McAllister

The Whole Story on Circumcision
Dr. Christopher Guest

Circumcision Research
Doctoral student and scientist, Ben Selfridge


* Real Photos Below *
May not be suitable for the workplace.


Top Right: Circumcised by Plastibell
Bottom Right: Circumcised by Gomco


No national health organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision.
A sampling of what is highlighted in circumcision policy statements:

Informational materials may be obtained at Etsy.


The Medical Benefits of Infant Circumcision








No medical organization in the world recommends routine infant circumcision.
Most strongly caution against it.

There are no medical benefits to removing the purposeful prepuce organ from a heathy newborn baby.

Above postcards available at Etsy.


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