Read the post, then call Target and let them know you support a mother’s right to breastfeed her child in public. I, for one, will not be spending any of my hard-earned money at Target until I see this satisfactorily resolved. I’m horrified that they bullied this mother in the name of being “family friendly” — what could possibly be more family friendly than feeding her baby??
The Bump recently posted a list of “10 Holiday Gifts Parents HATE.” I think some of the items on the list were right on — onesies that try to be funny but aren’t, toys that play annoying music, novelty items, and seasonally inappropriate clothes definitely make my list, but the other items I think are totally fine (I suspect this is a case of needing to know the recipient — we mostly haven’t gotten anything for Jesse that’s on my annoying gift list).
The Bump thinks that clashing nursery decor is a bad idea, and I suppose it is if the parents really care. For us, we’ve got four things on Jesse’s walls, all gifts from different people, and all, I suppose “clash” — but I don’t care at all. 1) Jesse’s name spelled out in photos, from my aunt, uncle, and cousins. This photo collage frame lives above the changing table and we see (and love) it all the time. 2) Peal board. James and I ring church bells in the English style of change ringing, and when Jesse was born, our friends ran two quarter peals and a full peal for him, which we thought was really sweet. A few months later, a friend presented us with a peal board with the details of the peal, which we proudly hang next to the third item of wall decor: 3) Aleph Bet poster, designed by a friend of ours. I like that we have the church bell item next to the Judaica — it seems to work well with how we do things as an interfaith family. 4) A Dr. Seuss clock, which my cousin gave Jesse (it was on our registry) provides a bit of whimsy. Each piece is unmatched to the others, and there isn’t an over-arching theme, but gifts like this make Jesse’s room truly special, and are a good daily reminder of the people who care about him, near and far.
Another item the Bump takes issue with is hand-crocheted (and presumably, hand-knit) blankets. We got a LOT of blankets when Jesse was born. To be honest, we didn’t use them all in the first year, but now that he’s old enough (and it’s cold enough) to have blankets in his crib, these are great! The more the merrier!
The Bump also doesn’t like clothes that are already outgrown, and I can definitely see where they’re coming from on this one, but thanks to a very slow-growing kiddo, this hasn’t been a problem for us!
Now, enough of what people shouldn’t give — what are Jesse’s favorites? Things you might want to think getting for a new little one in your life? To be honest, the Christmas gift he has gotten the most use out of was a (probably under $5) set of small nesting blocks, from James’s sister. These live in the diaper bag, and are ALWAYS a hit with Jesse and whatever of his friends are around. Jesse also loved books, especially board books so he can turn the pages. My feeling is, there’s enough time in the future for electronics — now is when Jesse really just wants things that he can manipulate with his hands, simple things that probably won’t break the bank, but that can be used a zillion different ways.
What are your favorite baby gifts to get or to give?
I’ve just updated my resources page, with links to a whole bunch of local and online resources — check out the updated list, and let me know if there are any glaring omissions!
Breastfeeding is my magic wand, and I have to admit I feel like I have fewer tools in my toolbox now than I did when I used to babysit regularly, before having my own kid. The other stuff just doesn’t work quite as well for me (although clearly James has ways he deals with all the above situations that don’t involve lactating, I’m pretty sure they require more work). For a while, we swapped babysitting with friends so we could all get some time off, and it was while watching their son, who had some serious separation anxiety the first time, that I had no idea what to do to make him feel better. Even if I thought my friend would be ok with me nursing her son (and I hadn’t asked, so I wouldn’t assume that necessarily) I remembered she said he was possibly dairy sensitive, so my milk would have been problematic anyway. I realized I had very few ideas of what I could do to calm this baby down.
Then, when we were visiting with my cousins, one cousin, who has a three month old, said she didn’t want to nurse too long because she didn’t want her baby to “rely” on nursing to fix his problems. This got me thinking about how much I, never mind Jesse, rely on nursing to keep the day moving along smoothly. At this point in his life, I don’t think it’s a problem, and I kind of just want to cross that bridge when and if we come to it. At this point, even as he moves more and more clearly into toddlerhood, he’s still so little that I think a little extra comfort from Mama is ok, and if he gets it now, and knows that I’ll be there to help him, maybe that’ll give him the confidence to try new things, even if he might not excel right away.
Do you use nursing as your magic wand?
There are lots of studies about how breastfeeding helps mothers and babies bond with each other. What I’m not sure about is how much people have looked at how breastfeeding can help mothers bond with each other. For me, breastfeeding my son is a fundamental part of the parenting experience (so far — I’m sure at some point it will switch over to being all about something else). In a lot of ways, it’s my answer to most of the problems we run into. Jesse fell down and hit his head? Nurse him! If that calms him down, that’s good in and of itself, and it also tells me that he’s not THAT hurt, so I don’t have to worry too much (I subscribe to the “toddlers are made of rubber and short for a reason” school of thought about falls, so we tend to not worry if he falls from his own height or lower). Ran out of cheerios and string cheese while out and about? He can just nurse more. Won’t nap because the surroundings are too exciting? Jesse is usually willing to nurse in lieu of napping if the nap just isn’t working.
Because breastfeeding is such a critical part of my parenting experience, a lot of the bonding I have done with other mothers is on this topic. It’s the kind of shared experience that I just couldn’t fathom before it because part of my reality, as much as I tried to read up ahead of time.
Last week, we ended up at a U.S. Naval Academy Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF) cookout. My in-laws have gotten very involved in OCF since moving to Maryland. It makes a lot of sense for them — My father-in-law was in the Coast Guard for a long time, they’re both devout Christians, my mother-in-law writes Christian books… clearly these are their people :) I was a little nervous, when we were on our way over. Bunch of people I’ve never met, many of whom are college students, all of whom connect with each other over something I don’t share (religion — I’m Jewish). Add to all that that we’d be showing up late — something I *hate* doing, even for something as informal as a cookout.
Jesse was a little fussy when we got there, so James grabbed the Boba from the car and I started nursing him in the carrier, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw another mom with a baby in a carrier! New mom friends — I’ve had practice at that game! We ended up having a great time chatting about motherhood, breastfeeding, life, everything. It all started off when we started talking about breastfeeding, and doing so in a carrier, in public, wherever…. it was a great bonding moment, and I felt much more at ease, knowing there was someone I could talk to about the things that are most important in my life (and hers) right now.
Thanksgiving week was too busy to blog, but I want to pause and take a moment to reflect on how thankful I am for our community, our families, our friends. We are incredibly, incredibly lucky. I am especially thankful that Jesse got to spend time with so many people who are so dear to me over the holiday. Here are some of the moments from our recent trip for which I am most thankful:
A hike on a gorgeous, perfect fall day, in a beautiful natural setting, my father-in-law having the energy to play with Jesse, Jesse hanging out with his third cousins, hanging out with more cousins, including one who was totally uninterested in the newborn last year, but seemed charmed by the toddler this year, seeing the cousin I tried to teach how to read (when he was three and I was ten) read to my little boy, my parents sharing a book with Jesse, a family trip to the zoo, lunch with a good friend who I know only because my mom and her dad went to high school together. It was the best Thanksgiving week I could possibly ask for. On the drive home, I spent a while thinking about how lucky we are to have the wonderful support network holding up our little family, laughing with us (and sometimes at us, but not in a mean way!) and sharing in the turning seasons.
What are you thankful for?
I’ve got a new article out about how to make pumping at work a little better. Check it out, then come back and let me know what you think! Did you pump milk for your baby after returning to work? What were your favorite tips and tricks?
My baby is definitely more of a toddler than a baby these days. He hasn’t quite taken his first truly independent steps yet, but he’ll be there soon, and he’s showing lots of other signs: saying “no” all the time (ok, that might be that he just likes to shake his head), getting pickier about his food, showing more signs of separation anxiety, his hair looks more like “real” hair and less like “baby” hair… I could go on. These all sort of developed gradually over the course of several months, so they don’t seem too shocking to my system.
The really big change seems to be how other people perceive him. Although the flack I’ve been getting about still breastfeeding him has been pretty minor, compared with what lots of women experience, there has definitely been an uptick in the number of surprised exclamations of “oh, you’re still doing that” when I breastfeed him in public (defined, for the moment, as anywhere populated by people besides me, my son, and my husband). It seems like once Jesse turned one, everyone started having an opinion (or, it’s possible I’m just noticing it more?).
Several of my cousins have gone out of their way to say things like “Are you going to nurse forever, like R did with P and S? Did you hear about the time P asked to nurse at [insert big family event]?? She just went right up to R and said ‘Mom, I want to nurse!'” I know they don’t mean to be mean — these are otherwise some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet — but I do think their attitude is part of a cultural pattern in regard to how people in America think about breastfeeding. As a fellow blogger describes in her critique of nursing covers, breastfeeding is foreign to most American women. We don’t see others do it, and we don’t really have much in the way of context and reference points. I’m pretty sure the reason my cousins are still talking about how R nursed her kids, twenty some years after the fact, is that seeing a child older than a new infant nurse is just not something they see often. For my part, their ragging on my (and R’s) nursing decisions made me even more determined to stay the course (and seek out R for advice and a pep talk, which she kindly obliged with!).
At this point, I feel like I see nursing infants everywhere, which is probably partly because I spent a lot of time with my local new moms’ groups, and with my local babywearing group where these things are to expected. Partly though, it may also just be that I’m in a pretty liberal part of the country, and there’s a lot of breastfeeding education and outreach locally, and the breastfeeding rates are relatively high. What I don’t see are nursing toddlers, usually. There are lots of reasons for this — it could be largely because many toddlers cut back their nursing to the point where they don’t ask to nurse other than morning and bedtime or naptime. That’s a very good reason to not see many toddlers nursing in public!
I wonder sometimes, though, whether there are also a fair number of moms who are worried about the looks they might get if *gasp* their child used WORDS to ask to nurse when they’re out and about. It’s like people don’t think infants can ask to nurse. They defnitely do (James was holding my cousin M’s new little one last weekend, and even though Jesse hasn’t rooted like that in a while, he recognized the signs right away that little J wanted his mom to nurse him). R said that when her kids were little, La Leche League suggested teaching a “code word” to toddlers so they could say, for instance “hippopotamus” and nobody but the mom would know that meant “can I nurse now, please.” R apparently thought that was silly at the time, and I have to admit that it kind of flies in the face of what I want to teach my kids: to use accurate language, describe their wants and needs politely, and to communicate well. I think teaching a code word really undermines that. I also don’t want my kids to think that there is something wrong with breastfeeding and that it needs to be hidden. Now, that being said, you do have several options for what accurate words to use. If you’re comfortable with your kid asking to breastfeed, teach them that word. If you prefer “nurse” use that. We usually use “nurse” and “milk” pretty interchangeably, partly because I think other people might be discomfited enough by the toddler asking for it, and I don’t feel the need to push the “breast” issue. Jesse already usually asks for milk when he wants to nurse, even though we may be the only ones who understand “MIH!! MIH!!” at the moment (l’s and k’s a bit challenging). My only complaint with how he asks to nurse is that he usually refers to ME as “milk” and not as “Mama” but I suspect that at some point, he’ll work out the difference :)
Before I end this (super long… sorry!) post, I should give a shout-out to my in-laws. My mother-in-law and father-in-law also asked me, on our recent trip to visit, what my nursing plans were, but rather than being snarky, they just seemed genuinely curious, and ended up sharing with me how much they (mostly MIL, but FIL too) were sad to see the nursing days go away when their youngest weaned, and I got to hear all five of my MIL’s weaning stories. The whole conversation just left me with a lot of warm-fuzzies, and it’s a good reminder that I do have women in my life (R, MIL, among others, I’m sure) who I can go to with questions, and to share the joys and challenges of nursing past infancy.
I think one of the reasons I feel so strongly that it takes a village to raise a child is that I very much was raised by a village myself, or, as my mother likes to describe it, chosen family. One of the joys of this was that, in addition to “sort-of siblings” and “extra parents” I had a couple of extra grandparents as well, Mr. and Mrs. A. We visited them on vacations, spent July 4th with them often, and generally some of my happiest childhood memories were formed with these people.
Mr. A had a theory about digestion, that most scientists would tell you is false, but I think is true on a deeper level. He believed that people have a second stomach for dessert. This explains why, after eating a good solid meal and not really being hungry anymore (or, being too full to eat your protein or veggies) you suddenly have a hearty appetite when dessert is put on the table. This theory was good for vacations, although I don’t think us kids got away with the argument much the rest of the year.
Jesse’s birthday party was this past Sunday, and we have quite a bit of leftover cake. We’re also trying as hard as we can to get Jesse to consume extra calories so he gains more weight. So, apparently, after he was giving the “all done” sign for eating his peanut butter-infused oatmeal, James offered him some leftover birthday cake, thinking maybe he’d be able to tempt a few more calories into him. Although Jesse has never met Mr. A, he clearly got the memo about having a second stomach for dessert, because he devoured the cake.
Maybe I’ll ask my mom (or, better yet, one of Jesse’s extra grandparents) to tell him about having a second stomach. That sort of thing is probably better coming from a grandparent than a parent :)
Yesterday, mentioned one of the most annoying things about being car-free — having random strangers come up to you and criticize your parenting. Lest you think it’s all annoyances, I thought I’d balance that post with one today about some of the joys of interacting with random strangers on a daily basis.
We ride the bus a lot. We know there are lots of people who would prefer we not take up any more space than possible, and we try our best to be compact, but sometimes, my back is bothering me and I can’t wear Jesse in a carrier, or we’re going somewhere all day (or overnight) and need more stuff than we can easily carry while also carrying him, so we use a stroller. I feel lucky that only a couple of people have given us a hard time about this (one woman yelled at me as I was getting on a (not at all crowded) bus that “those things” are illegal, which is blatantly not true).
Usually, the opposite happens. People smile, make funny faces, and generally engage with a baby in a way they wouldn’t be caught dead doing with an adult. Especially in Boston, the general code of conduct is “pretend nobody else is there and you’re in your own little world.” I don’t say this to be disparaging — I grew up here, and it’s what I’m used to and I totally admit to getting kind of weirded out when random strangers seem to really want to talk to you. For years, I’ve known that there are a few exceptions to this rule:
1) The weather is awful in some way and you’ve been waiting outside for a while
2) The bus/train is having major problems
3) You want to know if you just missed a bus or train
Those are pretty much the only things that people won’t look at you oddly for starting a conversation about — hey, everyone loves to kvetch about the T and the weather, right? Turns out, there is a fourth topic on that list: babies. I’ve had so many people start gushing about their own kids and how fast these early years go by, or what their grandkids are up to, or comparing notes on strollers, carriers, or other baby gear. It’s amazing, and you meet some really nice people. Some people speak just enough English to say “cute baby” but then they spend the rest of the bus ride playing peek-a-boo. It’s an amazing way to really restore your faith in humanity, ride the bus with a baby.