Thursday, March 24, 2011

Natural Parenting....bigger than we think?

It’s pretty easy to feel like the only natural mama sometimes- or at least, one of the very few. To feel like you’re fighting an endless battle because you choose to wear your baby or nurse on demand or simply meet their needs. To feel like the pool of those to share with is overwhelmingly huge- not to mention generally on the hostile side.

But I had a perspective check this week that made me think- maybe we really are a growing movement- bigger than we realize. My mom’s been natural parenting for the past 2 decades. She’s dealt with a lot of harassment and unwelcome comments- from doctors, strangers, friends, and so forth. And, she’s dealt with a complete lack of information being available to her, especially in the first decade or so. An over-the-shoulder sling was about the only natural baby carrier available…and she wore it constantly till she discovered the world of maya wraps in 2003. When she had to have me via c-section due to my breech position, she was told she couldn’t breastfeed me- that it just wasn’t possible to breastfeed flat on your back. Lucky for me, Mom had found La Leche League’s book on breastfeeding while pregnant, and hence was fully aware of her ability to nurse in any position. Not so lucky for her, she received zero personal help or encouragement from the medical staff, friends, or family, which meant cracked and bleeding nipples, and a rough start. But somewhere inside her, she knew what was best- and so, she persevered. She’s parented during some of the heights of Ezzoism…with doctors and others who insist that it’s normal for a baby to cry, that you’ll spoil a baby by holding them, and so on.

This week, she’s been researching to invest in a new sling, and discovering the wealth of websites out there dedicated to babywearing and other forms of natural parenting. Companies that support and promote one another. People that are more concerned about spreading the babywearing love than making a buck. She was really excited, and mentioned to me how exciting it is that this is such a huge thing- there’s so many people who do it- there’s so much information for anyone who wants it- there’s support groups all across America and in other countries. My first thought was “Uh…we’ve got a long ways to go….” And then I realized- over the course of 2 decades, Mom’s seen us come a long ways- probably longer than I realize. So I take energy in her enthusiasm, excitement in the idea that this exists in stronger numbers than I thought- or at least, that it is growing.

Doctors and hospitals, overall, promote breastfeeding now. Most have lactation consultants available for any mom who has problems or questions. Some hospitals are even waking up to the research promoting kangaroo care for preemie babies, and allowing moms to spend hours holding their preemie baby skin to skin. A friend’s nurse was recently telling her that if a baby under 12 months is crying it’s for a reason and needs to be taken care of immediately. And until I meet the next rigid and unnatural doctor, I feel a glimmer of hope.

It’s not easy to see- because when I go shopping, all I see are plastic carseats attached to the carts. When I’m at a gathering, I see and hear babies crying unattended. When I visit homes, I see every latest contraption. When I talk to people, they tell me about how vital this piece of equipment or that is, to the survival of motherhood. And if I ever saw someone else wearing their baby in the store- it would completely merit striking a friendship on the spot. I still know very few people who’d fit the “natural parent” profile…and very, very few who share my same ideals to the same extent. We’re still the minority….but, a larger minority than we were a decade ago.

Because, hey- I do know people who parent naturally. I even know a group of babywearing moms who get together just to play with each other’s “toys”. Ladies that breastfeed while chasing a toddler and helping someone else try a carrier, like a totally natural part of life. I know people in scattered parts of the country who are committed to parenting their children naturally. And even if I don’t know very many natural locals, I know people who are receptive….people who are curious…people who feel there might be a better way…people who dip their toes in…

And all that is far more than my mom ever had. So maybe in a couple decades- when my daughter’s a mother- we’ll see as much change as my mom has. And even if there’s a long ways to go yet, maybe we older moms will be able to smile and say, “Oh, but we’ve come such a very, very long ways.” Maybe by then, the medical community and people of America will be listening to the current research in strong numbers. Maybe it won’t be such a rare thing to meet someone else wearing their baby in Walmart. Just maybe…we won’t be the minority.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Poo :-)

For the past several months, I’ve been doing a “no shampoo” method of washing my hair. And I am totally, 100% hooked on it. As far as I can see now, I won’t ever be going back to shampoo and conditioner.

I was so sick and tired of my hair. Not only was it falling out in gobs thanks to after-pregnancy hormones (I presume it’s something hormonal that makes it do that?), which really irritated me, but it was also so greasy. If I skipped one day of washing it, it got so greasy I could barely do anything basic with it. It felt gross, and I couldn’t stand it. Not to mention the consistent dandruff issues I’ve had for several years. And it’s not like I’m using cheap shampoo/conditioner. I’m using a natural brand, a bit on the pricier side, with fewer harsh chemicals and mostly good ingredients. I’ve also tried a variety of the mainstream products that are supposed to help with dandruff, etc. No good. So when Mom mentioned she’d gone radical and tried the “no poo” method, I was all over it. After the first washing I noticed a huge difference. Day after washing it, still pretty silky soft. Second day after washing it, still the same. Third day….still fairly good to go. Yep. Wash it twice a week. And it stays soft, silky, and workable. Cheaper than dirt, healthy for my scalp, and takes very minimal time per week? I’m in love with it!

Are you jealous? Ready to hear the method? Get two bottles, whatever size you have available, between 2 cups and ½ gallon. In one bottle, for every cup of water you put in, add 1 TBL baking soda. (so if you use 4 cups water, use 4 TBL (or ¼ cup) baking soda) In the other bottle, do the same thing, except you use apple cider vinegar. I use the kind with the “mother” in it, though I don’t think that’s necessary. For my ACV bottle, I’ve been using an old Bragg’s Liquid Aminos squirt bottle, which works really well. My other one is just a quart sized Bolthouse smoothie bottle. But anything would work, including old shampoo/conditioner bottles. In the shower, pour the baking soda mixture on first- after getting your hair really wet. Scrub it in really well. For my super-duper thick, mid-back length hair, I use ½-1 cup. Rinse well, then pour or squirt the ACV mixture on (I use about ½ cup, or maybe a bit less). Scrub in and rinse out. Enjoy the squeaky-clean sound and feel. The ACV smell dissipates really quickly- which is something I was slightly concerned about at first, because Ben can’t stand its smell! It’s helped cut down on dandruff, as well as taken care of the grease issue. An added bonus? I stopped “shedding” as much during the day. Granted, that only happened because I was scrubbing harder in order to get the ACV rubbed into my scalp well, since I already knew that was supposed to help with dandruff. For the first time in a long time, I actually love my hair.

Two more huge benefits are that it’s costing me pennies, and I know exactly what’s being absorbed into my skin. Both are healthful ingredients, especially ACV- there are so many health benefits from that one. One final benefit- I’m saving lots of time per week. Yay for homemade remedies and recipes!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heart Thoughts [in which babies have emotional needs, too]

Ben and I have been discussing this topic a lot lately, and we both used our creative outlets to express our thoughts. It was fun to both come up with something on the same topic! :-) (obviously, the poem is Ben's....)


Children are not slates,

Where we record our noble discoveries

That they might be passed on

To the next generation

And live forever,

Nor are they robots

We program with our liturgies,

That they may move in sync

With our agendas

And what we think is true.

Children are like saplings,

With life beyond our touch;

We nurture them

And care for them

But do not choose their form.

A child grows best

Not with letters engraved

In her branches,

But with the gentle raindrops

Of love.


I’ve seen something sad, a lot. I’ve seen it in secular families, Christian families, *even* homeschool families. (side note: that isn’t to say that homeschoolers are superior to those who aren’t. I’ve heard we’re the cream of the crop, but lately, I haven’t often seen something to impress me amongst homeschool grads. Sad, but true.) It’s the act of dehumanizing babies and children. Degrading them till they’re simply blobs we take care of. Just maybe, if these mothers thought about it, they’d change their actions. Perhaps they don’t premeditate it and decide that babies aren’t really humans. But at any rate, actions show better than un-thought beliefs.

There’s dealing with a fussy little one. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve observed or heard about (sometimes, unashamedly, from the mother’s own mouth!) something similar to this situation: A baby is fussy. However, said baby is fed and changed, so the exasperated mother puts them in a car seat or similar contraption and says, “I’ve already fed and changed him, so if he’s going to cry, he might as well be down!” WHAT?! Seriously? It’s obvious to me that there are at least a few other physical discomforts to be aware of, such as tiredness, illness, teething, etc. (and being blessed with a baby who was difficult to get to sleep, I’m fully aware that all baby’s can’t just fall asleep at the drop of a pin because you want them to!) But let’s just assume none of those are true. There are still other needs. Babies are humans- and basically, that means they have emotional needs, too. That means they get lonely, like you and I. It means that sometimes for no particular reason, they need to be held, comforted, and whispered to. It means that sometimes, no matter what “fun” thing you’d rather be doing, they need your full attention.

The attitudes of so many mothers in this situation make me think of a strictly functional marriage. One where the husband pays the bills, the wife cooks the meals and keeps house. Everyone’s basic physical needs are taken care of- she has a home, he gets fed. Would you think the wife unreasonable if she was discontent? If she longed for a relationship….for conversation and companionship? Of course not- we consider those valid needs. Likewise, we’d consider the husband’s needs for companionship, sex, etc., perfectly valid. Because somehow, when we’re talking about adults, it’s okay to have emotional needs.

There might be times for putting a screaming baby down. I know it gets wearing to deal with a fussy baby for hours and hours. You might need a minute or two to collect yourself so you can better nurture and have greater compassion for your little one. The point is that we shouldn’t discard a baby’s emotional needs as being non existent. Putting a crying baby down should enable you to more fully meet their needs in a minute, not just be an act of neglect.

Another situation/attitude I’ve observed quite a bit, is that if a baby’s content down by themselves, they’re fine to stay down. Lots of moms have commented, “Well, she’s such an easy baby, I don’t need to use a carrier. She’s fine on the floor or in her car seat.” If a baby will be happy in their car seat through the grocery trip, they see no need to take them out. If they’ll sit there while you make dinner, they see no need to put the extra hassle into holding the baby.

And this makes me think of taking advantage of an easy-going non-demanding spouse. Like my husband….I could totally get my way about anything if I wanted to, and never meet his needs, because he just won’t demand. But that doesn’t strike me as a very good reason to use it to my advantage. Just because your spouse has an extra-large servant’s heart, isn’t a very good reason to crush and punish them.

It’s okay for your baby to play by itself. I put Vivi on the bed by herself when I go to the bathroom. Once baby’s start exploring, they love to be independent and seek their own adventures. I know eventually, Viviana will get there, and she’ll be running away from me. I’ll continue to arrange my day so that we spend lots of time together, but she will be gaining independence, which is natural. In the long run, I want my children to be independent.

However, if we want our babies/children to develop optimally, to thrive, to feel loved, to be confident, we need to seek actively to meet even the needs of the “good” babies. They might not demand your attention, but like any human, they do need it in order to develop to their fullest potential.

You may hold/wear your fussier babies more than some of your others, and that’s okay. Some babies do have greater needs. Just don’t overuse your ability to plop a baby here or there. Remember that you’re helping your baby to thrive emotionally when you choose to pull them into what you’re doing, whether or not they’re fussy.

I don’t want to judge your parenting style- especially if you’ve thoroughly thought out your parenting beliefs. I’d just like for moms (and dads) to consider the fact that their babies and children are humans with emotional needs. I’d like for them to understand that a baby’s needs go beyond dry bums and full tummies. I would like to see a generation of children reach their fullest potential because they had loving, investing parents standing behind (or beside) them, cheering them on, sharing life, being a friend.