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Activism

Making Space For Children: My Beef with the Swimming Pool

I’m starting a bit late, but for the rest of November, I’ll be participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which means I’ll be posting something every day, rather than taking weekends off as I usually do. I have been toying with the idea of writing a Nonviolent Communication-related post every Sunday, since I’m going through the workbook with a small group at the moment, so this is a great opportunity to jump in and do that. Not much else should change, but you may see some slightly lighter content every once in awhile. Overall, I’m hoping it’s a good writing exercise for me.

NaBloPoMo 2011

 

Today’s post fits into that lighter category, and hopefully you can forgive me if I get a bit ranty, but I have a beef with a local swimming pool and I’m curious to know your take on the issue. Continue reading

Connection and Milksharing: A Lesson Learned

The idea of whether or not to nurse never really occurred to me, since I had been given plenty of opportunities to see babies fed in this natural way. As far as I was concerned, breastfeeding was the norm and there was no reason to consider another option. It also never occurred to me that it might actually be a difficult thing to do. A few weeks before my daughter’s birth, I realized that if I tried, I could hand express a bit of colostrum. Fantastic! We were all set! 

After my daughter’s birth, she began nursing easily and there was never a single issue on her end of the deal. For me, however, there was. Due to a very strong suck, poor positioning, or some combination, I ended up in severe pain in the first days of my daughter’s life, and it lasted well beyond the first weeks. I dreaded nursing her because every feeding meant my wounds were reopened. One side was worse than the other, but both hurt awfully. I searched far and wide for a lactation consultant to help me figure out what we had been doing wrong and how to fix it, but our island does not have one. The nearest, it seemed, was Japan, which really is not near at all. I managed to push through thanks to some fabulous online support, but I was frustrated by the lack of local resources for women with breastfeeding issues. Even as late as my six week postpartum appointment, my nipples were so damaged that my OB encouraged me to begin nursing from one side only. She compared my wounds to a C-section scar, and asked me to return for a follow-up a month later so that she could make sure they were healing properly.
Going Strong at 18 Months
My daughter grew, and our nursing relationship continued. Eventually I did heal properly, and the pain of those first few months has become a distant memory. That experience, however, made me keenly aware of just how difficult breastfeeding can be in some cases. It also made me passionate about helping other nursing mothers – especially here on Guam where informed breastfeeding support is hard to come by. So, when a friend approached me about Eats on Feets, I was immediately interested in helping. Because of my daughter’s love of frequent nursing, I had enough milk for her and then some. I posted my offer of donor milk on my local chapter page, but the word about EOF was slow to get out in this part of the world and some time passed before anyone came forward with a need. 
When my daughter was just under a year old, a mom who needed milk for her son posted on our local Eats on Feets page and I connected with her online. We made arrangements for our families to get together for dinner. I learned that she had needed a medical procedure immediately following her son’s birth that made it impossible for her to nurse right away. She struggled with supply from the start, but fortunately had a family friend with milk to share and this milk had been feeding her son since his birth. Her friend’s supply had begun to dwindle, however, and the mom was finding that she sometimes needed to supplement with formula. I was not pumping yet, but we all felt comfortable and I offered to start expressing and storing my milk for this mama’s sweet boy. She had found another donor through EOF, so I would be their third. The father, an MD, explained that, “It’s awesome! I mean, he gets three different sets of antibodies!”
Because I stay home with my daughter, I had never needed to pump my milk. I considered buying a pump, but I started out hand expressing and this worked so well that I decided pumping was unnecessary. I was able to express and freeze as anywhere from three or four to twelve ounces each evening, depending on how well hydrated I was and how much Annabelle had nursed that day. I kept in touch with my recipient family over the phone and on facebook, and when I had a good amount stocked up, they would come and pick it up. 

Now, here’s the part where I need to be really honest. I was more than happy to share my abundance of milk for the benefit of any baby, and I think doing so is the most natural thing this side of a mama nursing her own baby at the breast. I would donate again in a heartbeat, but I was relieved when my recipient family moved off island, bringing the donor relationship to a natural end. My problem was that I failed to build a connection with the family I was donating to. This would be fine for a one time donation of milk I had stored away for no one in particular, but I was sitting down for fifteen or twenty minutes each and every day to express milk for a baby I had never even held. Our meetings to exchange milk were quick and easy, with only one parent getting out of the car.

Yesterday, Amy at Anktangle re posted her Milksharing How-To, and one of the suggestions she gave for mothers thinking about sharing their milk was to, regularly check in with yourself on an emotional level, so you’re aware of how you’re feeling about donating your milk.” I didn’t do this, and I think it really would have helped. I didn’t understand at first why I was feeling so disappointed. After all, I was doing something that I really believed in: Helping a baby get species specific nutrition, and sticking it to those sleazy formula companies, all at the same time. Why didn’t I feel awesome? Eventually it occurred to me that the missing piece was connection. 

My offer of donor milk still stands, and I’ll gladly start expressing again if someone comes forth with an ongoing need, but next time I’ll make a point of checking in with myself more often. I’ll make a point of building a friendship with my recipient family so that I can more freely give from the heart, of both my time and my milk, because that connection is important to me. 

Have you ever donated your own milk, or received donor milk? What suggestions would you have for families considering the same?


World Milksharing Week

September 24th-30th is World Milksharing Week, celebrated to help raise awareness of donor milk as a viable option for babies who need something in addition to or in place of their own mother’s milk. To start off the celebration here, I’m sharing an updated version of an article I wrote at this time last year. Be sure to check tomorrow to read my personal milk sharing story.

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In recent history, the cultural norm for infant feeding has been pretty simple: some women nurse or express breast milk for their babies, while others feed their babies formula from a bottle. Until recently, I had never met, in person, a mom who did anything else. It seems that when there are breastfeeding problems, or a mother cannot or does not wish to nurse, the natural solution is infant formula. I’m sure that formula companies are quite pleased that their products are the immediate go-to for the vast majority of moms when breastfeeding is difficult, or is not an option for one reason or another, but this is an unfortunate scenario for infants.

The following excerpt is taken from the World Health Organizations’s Global Strategy for Infant Feeding

“The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances…Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group.”

In other words, most every mother can breastfeed and doing so provides the greatest benefit to her offspring. In the rare circumstances when she cannot, the best alternatives, in order are:
  • Expressed milk from the mother
  • Milk from another healthy mother, at the breast, or expressed and fed using another method such as an SNS, cup, or bottle
  • Infant formula
In terms of what is healthiest for our children, infant formula should be the LAST resort, and as stated above, actually puts children who consume it at risk. It’s no surprise, however, that women tend to go straight for it when breastfeeding is not possible, or is not quite enough. The idea of using donor milk is almost unheard of, and is sometimes even treated as something completely wacky and counter-culture. Cross nursing (a woman nursing a child other than her own) is even worse – I mean who does that, right!? It’s a sad state of affairs when society fails to empower women to make the best possible choices for their children’s health. Once again, though, I’m sure Nestle and other formula companies are quite content with the way things are!
Fortunately, there are milk banks in a growing number of locations, but these generally serve NICU babies first and if they do have milk available for healthy babies, a prescription is required and at roughly three dollars an ounce or more, it can be cost-prohibitive. This milk is also pasteurized, which is good, of course, in that it helps to destroy any potential pathogens, but it also has a negative effect on some of the beneficial substances in human milk. So, while it is certainly superior to infant formula, human milk from a milk bank is not always easy to obtain and loses some of its nutritional and immunological value in the pasteurization process.
When one looks at the evidence, it becomes clear that cross-nursing, or donor milk directly from a healthy mother is actually quite a sensible choice, and the apparent taboo surrounding it is an unfortunate hurdle for mothers who have trouble breastfeeding. Women who realize this are speaking up, however. Milk Share, formed in 2004, is an informational resource and connection point for families in need of human milk and others who are willing and able to provide it – free of charge. Eats on Feets, a global milk sharing network launched last year, is another connection point whereby families in need can find mothers willing to donate milk. They have new chapters springing up all the time – we even have one here on Guam! This year saw the birth of yet another such network in Human Milk 4 Human Babies. Whether it is talked about or not – there are mothers virtually everywhere in the world who are more than willing to provide milk for babies other than their own – out of the kindness of their hearts.

I’m also celebrating by linking this post up with the lovely Anktangle and many other bloggers who will be sharing their World Milksharing Week posts. Do stop in and visit them!

Journey to a Disposable Free Household

Welcome to the First Annual Freedom of Cloth Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Freedom of Cloth Carnival hosted at Natural Parents Network by Melissa of The New Mommy Files and Shannon of The Artful Mama. This year’s carnival will run from Sunday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 9th. Participants are sharing everything they know and love about cloth diapering, including how cloth has inspired them.

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Photo Credit: Ray King
Used by Creative Commons License

I have been on a journey to be kinder and gentler to the environment since long before my daughter was born, but her birth and the decision to cloth diaper definitely gave me the extra push I needed to take that journey more seriously. I knew from the start that I would use cloth in combination with elimination communication, but as I researched my options and learned how easy it was to use cloth, I took things a bit further.

Using cloth caused me to think more about other single-use items in our home and I have slowly been replacing these with options we can use again and again. The most obvious switch was from disposable to cloth napkins, but later we moved away from our use of paper towels for cleaning. I was surprised to see how easy it was to use cotton cloths in their stead, even for things like mirrors and windows. Making one small change at a time has made the switch to cloth for all of our household needs an easy one. My most recent change has been away from disposable feminine products and it was quite easy thanks to my “Keeper Cup.”
As I gave more thought to the products I was using to wash our diapers, I also began to examine all of our household cleaning products and that has been instrumental in my switch to a chemical-free household. Not only is this safer for my family, but it has me buying fewer products in disposable containers. We do use a large amount of vinegar that comes in plastic gallon jugs, so my current eco conundrum is how to reduce those. The change in our choice of cleaning products in turn made me look at the products I use for my own self care: shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetics. I have slowly made changes in this area as well, switching to products that don’t contain harsh chemicals and that use less packaging and disposable containers.
By no means am I perfect, and I’m sure that my family is not making all of the “right” choices, but the point is – we’re thinking about it, and we’re making changes one at a time as we see a need. Cloth diapering has been a giant stepping stone in our journey toward awareness and conscious, mindful living in our environment. 

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freedom of cloth carnivalVisit
Natural Parents Network
for the most up-to-date news on the Freedom of Cloth Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants on the following themes. Articles will go live on the scheduled theme day:

  • Sunday, July 3rd, 2011: Cloth Related Recipes — Writers share their best cloth-related recipes and tutorials.
  • Monday, July 4th, 2011: Choosing Your Cloth Style — Today’s posts discuss parents’ individual journeys to finding the cloth diapering “style” that best suits their families.
  • Tuesday, July 5th, 2011: Cloth Diapering Must Haves — Parents talk about the most important items in their diapering “stash” and why they love them.
  • Wednesday, July 6th, 2011: Wordless Wednesday, Inspired by Cloth — We asked parents to share their favorite cloth-related photo with us and turned them into a fluffy Wordless Wednesday photo montage on Natural Parents Network. Link up your own Wordless Wednesday post there!
  • Thursday, July 7th, 2011: Cloth Through the Stages: From Infancy to Potty Independence — Today’s participants explain how cloth diapering has served their families throughout one or more stages of their children’s lives.
  • Friday, July 8th, 2011: Cloth Troubleshooting and Laundry Day — Seasoned cloth diapering parents share their best tips and tricks for handling common cloth problems and tackling the diaper laundry.
  • Saturday, July 9th, 2011: Inspired by Cloth — For today’s theme, we’ve asked writers to explore the ways cloth diapering has inspired them to become “greener” overall.

Advocacy through Openness, Respect, and Understanding

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo Credit: Lollyknit on Flickr
Used by Creative Commons license
I will always remember the day that everything I believed about belief changed. I was sitting in my cultural anthropology class on a perfectly ordinary Saturday morning, participating in a discussion on the many recurring themes in oral traditions throughout history. We looked at several different flood stories, and while I was previously aware that “Noah’s Ark” had not been the only tale of a catastrophic, widespread flood; on this day the reality of the these themes’ pervasiveness really struck me.
The idea that “they will know we are Christians by our love,” had long been dear to me and I believed myself to be a reasonably good example of this love. I was by no means perfect, but I did my best, trying to live in a way that was in accordance with my beliefs. On that Saturday morning, however, something else struck me amidst the crashing wave of thoughts that had started to rush in. I began to see the faces of the many inspiring people I had met who followed other belief systems: there was the beautiful Hindi woman, radiating with love, who had recently come to talk to the children at a camp I was helping lead; and there was the kind, gentle Zoroastrian man whose grandson I taught at the local Montessori school. I realized that I knew a great many people who lived and breathed love, and yet were not Christians. Clearly this love was not unique to people with my exact belief system.
It was on this day that I realized how few people really needed to hear about my beliefs. It was on this day that I let go of the idea of evangelizing, and instead learned the value of opening my mind and my heart to share with others on equal ground. It’s not that I don’t feel I have something of value to share, but rather that I recognize that I’m not the only one who does. If others see the value in what I have to share, they’ll ask, and if they don’t, well, they’re not going to really listen to what I have to say anyway.
What does this have to do with natural parenting, you ask? Religion aside, each of us has our own beliefs, and these guide our parenting practices in much the same way that they guide us in other arenas. My beliefs as a parent have led me to breastfeed my daughter, to share sleep with her, and to respond to all of her needs with love, gentleness, and respect. Your beliefs may guide you to different practices, but that does not make me superior to you. In fact, it’s quite possible that we can learn from each other.
I would love to live in a world where all parents are guided by love, respect, and understanding of children and their needs. Perhaps the best way to get there is by extending that same love, respect, and understanding to other parents so that we can learn from one another. At times I’m tempted to advocate for the type of parenting I believe in by spouting these beliefs to anyone who will listen, but I try instead to remind myself of that one day in cultural anthropology class, and advocate for respect by showing it to others.
Mamaste: The mother in me recognizes and honors the mother in you.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don’t share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don’t parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That’s The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she’s learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the “good news” of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people’s children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter’s senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the “great divide” through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R’s of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how “The Three R’s” can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she’s been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she’s doing — and it’s a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on “holistic” — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time… — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We’re great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by “just doing her thing,” she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I’m not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don’t tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.
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