Tuesday, August 31, 2010

FO: Miss Molly and Lil Gipper (aka Domer-Kun)

This might be my favorite knitting project ever. EVER. It's so freaking cute. Seriously, go learn to knit, and buy this pattern. I will send you my little excel spreadsheet ND pattern.

I'm calling them Miss Molly and Lil' Gipper. But as someone pointed out, it looks like the Japanese Domo-Kun, and I liked the Domer play on words, so it's got two cool names. Not that I really get to name them, as they aren't ours. I kind of wish that this one was for Joseph, though!

It's on its way to another future Domer born this summer. Hopefully little Niko will enjoy it!


Joseph's language is really starting to develop! Here are all the "words" he uses (I use the term word pretty loosely):

Da da
Ma ma
Ball (comes out Bah-ah)
Dog (oof-oof)
Cat (mwaow)
Sheep (ba)
Duck (duh)
No (only used once, thank goodness!)

Apparently sounds count for animals, which is why I am counting all of those! He doesn't always use his words, but I'm certain he's used all of these at some point or another in the last few weeks! TEN words... I'm so proud! He only had one word at his 15 month appointment a couple of months ago.

Monday, August 30, 2010

2 out of 2 parents agree

Now that Joseph sleeps, he's the most awesome baby ever!

Aw, thanks! I like you guys, too.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crunchy Knitting

Ya'll know that I'm a knitter, as I'm always AW'ing my FO's on my blog. And you also know that I'm a bit granola. Well, it turns out that the two go together quite well! I discovered this super awesome blog a few weeks back. Basically, the girl goes thrift store shopping for wool garments that she can repurpose for things like longies and soakers, toys, etc... anything you might make from felted wool.

She also picks up sweaters that are froggable (you can riiiiip-it back to reuse the yarn), which is what I'm most interested in right now. I just bought four sweaters to frog... I'm most excited about a 100% CASHMERE sweater (Ann Taylor) and 100% merino (Brooks Brothers) as I know their quality is quite good. I also got two generic "100% wool" sweaters (Abercrombie and JCrew) that I am sure are pretty decent, too. The best part is that I paid $40 total for all four of them, and they must have some decent yardage as they are adult sized sweaters. These should make some kick-ass projects for a song!

Does it get any better? Inexpensive, recycled, and high quality. Yey!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kitchen Adventures

Joseph is feeding himself a lot more regularly now, which makes Mama happy, proud, and glad she keeps the camera nearby!

Do you think fat and calories can be absorbed through the skin?

Woman, did I ask for chocolate cake? I'm not eating this.
(He really didn't... who is this kid?)

The poor man's swimming pool - I can't think of a better way to get the floor mopped!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fun Toys!

Once upon a time, I thought we'd have a house with a few wooden or homemade toys that DomerBaby would magically play with for hours and hours at a time.

Then Joseph arrived, and so did reality. :) We have LOTS of plastic stuff that require batteries. And that's OK, really. Joseph enjoys working them and playing with them, and they are lots of fun. But I still get a thrill when he shows interest in a hand made or old school toy.
He was getting pretty overwhelmed by the sheer amount of toys we have, so I put the majority into a cabinet and I take a couple out every day for him to play with. He seems to play much better with just a few things out, and switching it all up gives him time to enjoy what he has. Plus there is actually room for him to run around and push his larger toys now that he's walking exclusively.

The other day I pulled out "Boo Bear" and he was ecstatic! Tante Teresa made Boo Bear for Joseph last spring, and I'm tickled pink that he's taking an interest in it!

I picked up the bubble popper at a consignment store because it's so old school, and at first he was a bit weary of it, but it's really grown on him! He loves to push it around.

He's not quite as interested in finger paints yet, though.

August MN VIsit

We had lots of fun up in MN this year - we flew in on a Saturday and went to Wisconsin for a family party, then stayed the night with our friends Justin and Megan and their ADORABLE newborn Shelby.

The rest of the visit was spent just hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa, and Joseph loved it, as always! T.J. and I went to a Twins game with Auntie Debbie and Joseph stayed with Grandma and Grandpa and didn't even notice we were gone! We left him with Grandma another day, too, to have some free time and he did well again!

I was a really terrible mama and didn't even take my camera out ONCE! Luckily Grandma took some pictures.

Teaching him to do dishes... I like it!

Grandma has the best toys

And she lets him drive them wherever he wants!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Graduating to Sanity!

Typically, we think of "commencement" as the end of something, as we see it at graduations and such. But really, it means to BEGIN.

This weekend, I feel like we began the life that everyone talks about when they say how great having kids is, and how blessed they are, and how they can't believe how much they love their kids. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved Joseph, but mostly when people asked me how I liked being a mom, I answered with something like "It's really hard", or "Nobody tells you the real truth about parenting", or "It's about 95% drudgery and 5% joy" or my favorite of late when being asked when we were going for #2 "Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me". Sure, we had some great moments during each day where I was just happy, yet mostly it was a happy, BUT...

Have I bummed you out yet or made you think I'm depressed (I am - but that was another post)? Well, the reason I'm bringing this up is because we have crossed over to the promised land of parenting! What caused this, do you ask? SLEEP

Glorious, uninterrupted sleep.

This is probably the most difficult post I've written since I wrote my birth story. Sleep has been our Achilles Heel for the better part of 18 months, yet I was (almost) always adamant that we would not leave Joseph to cry on his own in a crib. Last week I decided to read the Ferber book and see what I thought. Although there was a LOT that I disagreed with in the book, I was ready to try and separate nursing and sleeping for my almost-18mo-old, so we started there. I warned T.J. that it might take weeks to "fix" and to get ready for rough nights. He pointed out that that's all we have anyway, so what the hell. Good point.

Saturday night, we mixed the routine up for the first time. We went with bath, nurse, toothbrushing, and book (vs saving nursing to sleep for last). Then I put him in the crib, told him to lie down and that I loved him, and I left. Let's just say he was a bit stunned! But he cried for TWO minutes, and laid down and fell asleep and didn't wake up till 5am. Since then he has stopped crying at night and today he didn't cry for his nap. We've only ever had to go back in 2 times for the first nap and once that first morning. Last night he slept from 7:45 pm to 7:15 am. Even more than that, he woke up this morning CHATTING to his crib toys. My son, the one who ALWAYS has woken up screaming.

So I set out to "Ferberize" but didn't even really get the chance!

I know what you are thinking - SHE IS AN IDIOT! Why didn't she do this months (a year) ago??? I was thinking the same thing, which is why it's taken me forever to write this. But I realized yesterday that THIS was the right time for us. We've let Joseph cry before - up to 15min alone and over TWO HOURS with me in the room with him so he knew I was there and safe. He simply was not ready for this before. We tried to do Jay Gordon's night weaning program with no success twice in the last 4 months.

I truly believe that he has finally learned that even when we aren't physically present, they are still there if he needs us. TRUST - the lynch pin of attachment parenting. Woo hoo!

This is the best I've ever felt while being a mom - the most I've enjoyed Joseph, the most I've enjoyed doing things with him, looking at him, playing with him, teaching him. It's turning me into the parent I've been struggling to be for 18 months. And it's only been 5 days.

I'm so excited to say that being a parent is the best thing ever and my heart is bursting just thinking about Joseph!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Puddle Jumping!

Joseph and I hit the Piedmont Park Green Market on Saturday while T.J. went golfing. We took the train to midtown and walked to the park, then checked out all the vendors. We ended up getting some pastured eggs, grass fed beef, and organic figs! Yum.

After that we settled into a table so Joseph could eat some breakfast, after which I let him wander about. He was the hit of the market! He was just walking in circles in his toddling little way... it was seriously adorable. Of course there were scores of dogs, which got him all excited.

We watched the crepe guys make crepes (after that I was *obligated* to buy one!) and went and watched a local band perform, which Joseph really seemed to enjoy.

In between all of that, he even found a puddle! Sorry for the poor image quality - use your imagination.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Joseph is obsessed with shoes. His shoes, our shoes, other people's shoes. His favorite pair is one I got him for later - they are a bit bigger than his feet are now. He'll go in his closet any time it's open and grab them. It's very odd!

Ooooh, shoes!

Where should I take it? To the laundry basket?

Maybe to the chair for a story?

Out for a walk?

I know, I'll go show Daddy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Potty Time!

We hadn't been trying very hard about sitting Joseph on his little potty, but I had renewed interest when visiting with a friend from mom's group whose little boy is now wearing underpants during the day!

So, I went out and got one of those rings that go on the toilet seat. Being the really cool mom that I am, I paid the extra $2 for the sesame street seat with a more comfortable looking cushion. I think it paid off! Joseph L-O-V-E-S this thing. Like, we have a tantrum when we leave the bathroom because I make him leave it on the toilet.

He's already gone on the potty 4 times in 2 days! He seems to "get" it better than the little one, too, probably since he sees me go to the bathroom all the time. It's cute, because when he's finished he'll try to get himself toilet paper, just like a big kid!

"They" say there is a window around 18-24 months where kids are interested in potty learning, so I'm hoping we'll catch it and move on to bigger and better things, like talking!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

High-Cal Food Chronicles: Super Charged Yogurt

The Cast of Characters:

Trader Joe's European Style Plain Whole Milk Yogurt

Powdered Whole Milk (found in the Mexican aisle at the grocery store)

Banana (usually 1/2 - I give Joseph the other half to eat while I prepare the yogurt)

There's no real science to this one... just dump in the desired amount. We use approximately:

1/2 C yogurt
2 T powdered milk
1/2 smashed up banana

This is about 200 calories and 8 g fat! Not a bad start to the day! Sometimes he'll even eat some scrambled egg to go with it.

And while I'm at it, I cannot believe that the organic yogurt brands add sugar to their baby yogurts (Yobaby, I'm talking about you!). Frankly, adding the fruit should be enough, but if it does need extra sweetness, I like to be able to control the amount that goes in myself, which is why I've always just made it from plain. Sometimes I add vanilla and/or agave nectar to get vanilla yogurt, as he seems to like that a lot.

The ladies at LLL last week said that he looked chunkier this month, but there isn't a marked difference on our scale at home. The doctor did actually call T.J. last week to see if we had any questions, but I haven't called him back yet. I'm very pleasantly surprised that he followed up like that. Totally unexpected.

Well, it was a good run.

Joseph turned 17 months yesterday. We've been cutting back on nursing, and we're (usually) down to 3-4 times/day now. I knew it was the beginning of the end, and yesterday I finally got my period back.

I know you wanted to know that. But it's my blog, I can do what I want! Haha!

As a side note, I wonder if my weird no-appetite weekend had something to do with PMS... how cool would it be if I didn't want food a few days per month, versus what usually happens during that time?

One can dream.

Monday, August 9, 2010

FO: Matching hats

I set out to make a hat to match the Preppy Baby Vest for little William. However, I made the first one too big. It'll look cute on Joseph this winter.

So I whipped up a second hat quickly this weekend, in the proper (I hope) size. Now to get it off in the mail and pick my next project! I can almost guarantee it won't involve stripes!

Friday, August 6, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week, Part 3

And, to round things out, a simply WONDERFUL article I found on facebook that explains a few of the non-obvious benefits of breastfeeding from an anthropological point of view.

Did you know that anthropological views are my favorite when it comes to babies? They are.

What is a normal, term human infant supposed to do?

First of all, a human baby is supposed to be born vaginally. Yes, I know that doesn't always happen, but we're just going to talk ideal, normal for now. We are supposed to be born vaginally because we need good bacteria. Human babies are sterile, without bacteria, at birth. It's no accident that we are born near the anus, an area that has lots of bacteria, most of which are good and necessary for normal gut health and development of the immune system. And the bacteria that are there are mom's bacteria, bacteria that she can provide antibodies against if the bacteria there aren't nice.

Then the baby is born and is supposed to go to mom. Right to her chest. The chest, right in between the breasts is the natural habitat of the newborn baby. (Fun factoid: our cardiac output, how much blood we circulate in a given minute, is distributed to places that are important. Lots goes to the kidney every minute, like 10% or so, and 20% goes to your brain. In a new mom, 23% goes to her chest- more than her brain. The body thinks that place is important!)

That chest area gives heat. The baby has been using mom's body for temperature regulation for ages. Why would they stop? With all that blood flow, it's going to be warm. The baby can use mom to get warm. When I was in my residency, we would put a cold baby "under the warmer" which meant a heater thingy next to mom. Now, as I have matured, if a baby is "under the warmer," the kid is under mom. I wouldn't like that. I like the kids on top of mom, snuggled.

Now we have a brand new baby on the warmer. That child is not hungry. Bringing a hungry baby into the world is a bad plan. And really, if they were hungry, can you please explain to me why my kids sucked the life force out of me in those last few weeks of pregnancy? They better have been getting food, or well, that would have been annoying and painful for nothing.

Every species has instinctual behaviors that allow the little ones to grow up to be big ones and keep the species going. Our kids are born into the world needing protection. Protection from disease and from predators. Yes, predators. Our kids don't know they've been born into a loving family in the 21st century- for all they know it's the 2nd century and they are in a cave surrounded by tigers. Our instinctive behaviors as baby humans need to help us stay protected. Babies get both disease protection and tiger protection from being on mom's chest. Presumably, we gave the baby some good bacteria when they arrived through the birth canal. That's the first step in disease protection. The next step is getting colostrum.

A newborn baby on mom's chest will pick their head up, lick their hands, maybe nuzzle mom, lick their hands and start to slide towards the breast. The kids have a preference for contrasts between light and dark, and for circles over other shapes. Think about that...there's a dark circle not too far away.

Mom's sweat smells like amniotic fluid, and that smell is on the child's hands (because there's been no bath yet!) and the baby uses that taste on their hand to follow mom's smell. The secretions coming from the glands on the areola (that dark circle) smell familiar too and help the baby get to the breast to get the colostrum which is going to feed the good bacteria and keep them protected from infection. The kids can attach by themselves. Watch for yourself! And if you just need colostrum to feed bacteria and not yourself, well, there doesn't have to be much. And there isn't because the kids aren't hungry and because Breastmilk is not food!

We're talking normal babies. Breastfeeding is normal. It's what babies are hardwired to do. 2009 or 209, the kids would all do the same thing: try to find the breast. Breastfeeding isn't special sauce, a leg up or a magic potion. It's not "best. " It's normal. Just normal. Designed for the needs of a vulnerable human infant. And nothing else designed to replace it is normal.

Colostrum also activates things in the baby's gut that then goes on to make the thymus grow. The thymus is part of the immune system. Growing your thymus is important. Breastmilk= big thymus, good immune system. Colostrum also has a bunch of something called Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIgA). SIgA is made in the first few days of life and is infection protection specifically from mom. Cells in mom's gut watch what's coming through and if there's an infectious cell, a special cell in mom's gut called a plasma cell heads to the breast and helps the breast make SIgA in the milk to protect the baby. If mom and baby are together, like on mom's chest, then the baby is protected from what the two of them may be exposed to. Babies should be with mom.

And the tigers. What about them? Define "tiger" however you want. But if you are baby with no skills in self-protection, staying with mom, having a grasp reflex, and a startle reflex that helps you grab onto your mom, especially if she's hairy, makes sense. Babies know the difference between a bassinette and a human chest. When infants are separated from their mothers, they have a "despair- withdrawal" response. The despair part comes when they alone, separated. The kids are vocally expressing their desire not to be tiger food. When they are picked up, they stop crying. They are protected, warm and safe. If that despair cry is not answered, they withdraw. They get cold, have massive amounts of stress hormones released, drop their heart rate and get quiet. That's not a good baby. That's one who, well, is beyond despair. Normal babies want to be held, all the time.

And when do tigers hunt? At night. It makes no sense at all for our kids to sleep at night. They may be eaten. There's nothing really all that great about kids sleeping through the night. They should wake up and find their body guard. Daytime, well, not so many threats. They sleep better during the day. (Think about our response to our tigers-- sleep problems are a huge part of stress, depression, anxiety).

And sleep... My guess is everybody sleeps with their kids- whether they choose to or not and whether they admit to it or not. It's silly of us as healthcare providers to say "don't sleep with your baby" because we all do it. Sometimes accidentally. Sometimes intentionally. The kids are snuggly, it feels right and you are tired. So, normal babies breastfeed, stay at the breast, want to be held and sleep better when they are with their parents. Seems normal to me. But there is a difference between a normal baby and one that isn't. Safe sleep means that we are sober, in bed and not a couch or a recliner, breastfeeding, not smoking...being normal. If the circumstances are not normal, then sleeping with the baby is not safe.

That chest -to -chest contact is also brain development. Our kids had as many brain cells as they were ever going to have at 28 weeks of gestation. It's a jungle of waiting -to-be- connected cells. What we do as humans is create too much and then get rid of what we aren't using. We have like 8 nipples, a tail and webbed hands in the womb. If all goes well, we don't have those at birth. Create too much- get rid of what you aren't using. So, as you are snuggling, your child is hooking up happy brain cells and hopefully getting rid of the "eeeek" brain cells. Breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, is brain wiring. Not food.

Why go on and on about this? Because more and more mothers are choosing to breastfeed. But most women don't believe that the body that created that beautiful baby is capable of feeding that same child and we are supplementing more and more with infant formulas designed to be food. Why don't we trust our bodies post-partum? I don't know. But I hear over and over that the formula is because "I am just not satisfying him." Of course you are. Babies don't need to "eat" all the time- they need to be with you all the time- that's the ultimate satisfaction.

A baby at the breast is getting their immune system developed, activating their thymus, staying warm, feeling safe from predators, having normal sleep patterns and wiring their brain, and (oh by the way) getting some food in the process. They are not "hungry" --they are obeying instinct. The instinct that allows us to survive and make more of us.

Dr. Thomas

What Have I Done?

I gave Joseph a haircut today (like his 7th one or something... nothing big) but decided to use the clippers instead of scissors.


New mantra:
*Hair grows back, Hair grows back*

Thursday, August 5, 2010


On Monday, Joseph and I went to the 'burbs to try out their local "sprayground". It's a fancy version of running through sprinklers - no mud though! Joseph played in the water a little bit (see video on smugmug) but in general he had more fun playing peek-a-boo with a lady on the bench.

Elliott and Megan (right) checking out the water. Where's Joseph?

Found you!

World Breastfeeding Week, Part 2

For my 2nd article, I present a New York Times piece from this week. I love me some good scientific studies that are presented in lay-person terms! I'm not a PhD dropout for nothin'! If you don't want to read it, at least skim down to the last paragraph - it's funny!

Breast Milk Sugars Give Infants a Protective Coat

A large part of human milk cannot be digested by babies and seems to have a purpose quite different from infant nutrition — that of influencing the composition of the bacteria in the infant’s gut.

The details of this three-way relationship between mother, child and gut microbes are being worked out by three researchers at the University of California, Davis — Bruce German, Carlito Lebrilla and David Mills. They and colleagues have found that a particular strain of bacterium, a subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum, possesses a special suite of genes that enable it to thrive on the indigestible component of milk.

This subspecies is commonly found in the feces of breast-fed infants. It coats the lining of the infant’s intestine, protecting it from noxious bacteria.

Infants presumably acquire the special strain of bifido from their mothers, but strangely, it has not yet been detected in adults. “We’re all wondering where it hides out,” Dr. Mills said.

The indigestible substance that favors the bifido bacterium is a slew of complex sugars derived from lactose, the principal component of milk. The complex sugars consist of a lactose molecule on to which chains of other sugar units have been added. The human genome does not contain the necessary genes to break down the complex sugars, but the bifido subspecies does, the researchers say in a review of their progress in today’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The complex sugars were long thought to have no biological significance, even though they constitute up to 21 percent of milk. Besides promoting growth of the bifido strain, they also serve as decoys for noxious bacteria that might attack the infant’s intestines. The sugars are very similar to those found on the surface of human cells, and are constructed in the breast by the same enzymes. Many toxic bacteria and viruses bind to human cells by docking with the surface sugars. But they will bind to the complex sugars in milk instead. “We think mothers have evolved to let this stuff flush through the infant,” Dr. Mills said.

Dr. German sees milk as “an astonishing product of evolution,” one which has been vigorously shaped by natural selection because it is so critical to the survival of both mother and child. “Everything in milk costs the mother — she is literally dissolving her own tissues to make it,” he said. From the infant’s perspective, it is born into a world full of hostile microbes, with an untrained immune system and lacking the caustic stomach acid which in adults kills most bacteria. Any element in milk that protects the infant will be heavily favored by natural selection.

“We were astonished that milk had so much material that the infant couldn’t digest,” Dr. German said. “Finding that it selectively stimulates the growth of specific bacteria, which are in turn protective of the infant, let us see the genius of the strategy — mothers are recruiting another life-form to baby-sit their baby.”

Dr. German and his colleagues are trying to “deconstruct” milk, on the theory that the fluid has been shaped by 200 million years of mammalian evolution and holds a wealth of information about how best to feed and defend the human body. Though milk itself is designed for infants, its lessons may apply to adults.

The complex sugars, for instance, are evidently a way of influencing the gut microflora, so they might in principle be used to help premature babies, or those born by caesarean, who do not immediately acquire the bifido strain. It has long been thought there was no source of the sugars other than human milk, but they have recently been detected in whey, a waste byproduct of cheesemaking. The three researchers plan to test the complex sugars for benefit in premature infants and in the elderly.

The proteins in milk also have special roles. One, called Alpha-lactalbumin, can attack tumor cells and those infected by viruses by restoring their lost ability to commit cell suicide. The protein, which accumulates when an infant is weaned, is also the signal for the breast to remodel itself back to normal state.

Such findings have made the three researchers keenly aware that every component of milk probably has a special role. “It’s all there for a purpose, though we’re still figuring out what that purpose is,” Dr. Mills said. “So for God’s sake, please breast-feed.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week, Part 1

Breastfeeding week is upon us! Even though I don't talk about it much here anymore, I'm still a total lactivist. I attended my La Leche League meeting this morning, like I do a couple of times per month, and I really enjoy the camaraderie and support I get from the women there.

I've run across a few great articles about breastfeeding, and I'd like to share them with you over the next few days. I'll start with my *most favorite* of all time, an article by Diane Weissinger, MS, IBCLC.

Watch Your Language!
By Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC
(Reprinted from the Journal of Human Lactation, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1996)

"The truth is, breastfeeding is nothing more than normal. Artificial feeding, which is neither the same nor superior, is therefore deficient, incomplete, and inferior. These are difficult words, but they have an appropriate place in our vocabulary."

The lactation consultant says, "You have the best chance to provide your baby with the best possible start in life, through the special bond of breastfeeding. The wonderful advantages to you and your baby will last a lifetime." And then the mother bottlefeeds. Why?

In part because that sales pitch could just as easily have come from a commercial baby milk pamphlet. When our phrasing and that of the baby milk industry are interchangeable, one of us is going about it wrong...and it probably isn't the multinationals. Here is some of the language that I think subverts our good intentions every time we use it.

Best possible, ideal, optimal, perfect. Are you the best possible parent? Is your home life ideal? Do you provide optimal meals? Of course not. Those are admirable goals, not minimum standards. Let's rephrase. Is your parenting inadequate? Is your home life subnormal? Do you provide deficient meals? Now it hurts. You may not expect to be far above normal, but you certainly don't want to be below normal.

When we (and the artificial milk manufacturers) say that breastfeeding is the best possible way to feed babies because it provides their ideal food, perfectly balanced for optimal infant nutrition, the logical response is, "So what?" Our own experience tells us that optimal is not necessary. Normal is fine, and implied in this language is the absolute normalcy--and thus safety and adequacy--of artificial feeding. The truth is, breastfeeding is nothing more than normal. Artificial feeding, which is neither the same nor superior, is therefore deficient, incomplete, and inferior. Those are difficult words, but they have an appropriate place in our vocabulary.

Advantages. When we talk about the advantages of breastfeeding--the "lower rates" of cancer, the "reduced risk" of allergies, the "enhanced" bonding, the "stronger" immune system--we reinforce bottlefeeding yet again as the accepted, acceptable norm.

Health comparisons use a biological, not cultural, norm, whether the deviation is harmful or helpful. Smokers have higher rates of illness; increasing prenatal folic acid may reduce fetal defects. Because breastfeeding is the biological norm, breastfed babies are not "healthier;" artificially-fed babies are ill more often and more seriously. Breastfed babies do not "smell better;" artificial feeding results in an abnormal and unpleasant odor that reflects problems in an infant's gut. We cannot expect to create a breastfeeding culture if we do not insist on a breastfeeding model of health in both our language and our literature.

We must not let inverted phrasing by the media and by our peers go unchallenged. When we fail to describe the hazards of artificial feeding, we deprive mothers of crucial decision-making information. The mother having difficulty with breastfeeding may not seek help just to achieve a "special bonus;" but she may clamor for help if she knows how much she and her baby stand to lose. She is less likely to use artificial milk just "to get him used to a bottle" if she knows that the contents of that bottle cause harm.

Nowhere is the comfortable illusion of bottlefed normalcy more carefully preserved than in discussions of cognitive development. When I ask groups of health professionals if they are familiar with the study on parental smoking and IQ (1), someone always tells me that the children of smoking mothers had "lower IQs." When I ask about the study of premature infants fed either human milk or artificial milk (2), someone always knows that the breastmilk-fed babies were "smarter." I have never seen either study presented any other way by the media--or even by the authors themselves. Even health professionals are shocked when I rephrase the results using breastfeeding as the norm: the artificially-fed children, like children of smokers, had lower IQs.

Inverting reality becomes even more misleading when we use percentages, because the numbers change depending on what we choose as our standard. If B is 3/4 of A, then a is 4/3 of B. Choose A as the standard, and B is 25% less. Choose B as the standard, and A is 33 1/3% more. Thus, if an item costing 100 units is put on sale for "25% less,"the price becomes 75. When the sale is over, and the item is marked back up, it must be marked up 33 1/3% to get the price up to 100. Those same figures appear in a recent study (3), which found a "25% decrease" in breast cancer rates among women who were breastfed as infants. Restated using breastfed health as the norm, there was a 33-1/3% increase in breast cancer rates among women who were artificially fed. Imagine the different impact those two statements would have on the public.

Special. "Breastfeeding is a special relationship." "Set up a special nursing corner." In or family, special meals take extra time. Special occasions mean extra work. Special is nice, but it is complicated, it is not an ongoing part of life, and it is not something we want to do very often. For most women, nursing must fit easily into a busy life--and, of course, it does. "Special" is weaning advice, not breastfeeding advice.

Breastfeeding is best; artificial milk is second best. Not according to the World Health Organization. Its hierarchy is: 1) breastfeeding; 2) the mother's own milk expressed and given to her child some other way; 3) the milk of another human mother; and 4) artificial milk feeds (4). We need to keep this clear in our own minds and make it clear to others. "The next best thing to mother herself" comes from a breast, not from a can. The free sample perched so enticingly on the shelf at the doctor's office is only the fourth best solution to breastfeeding problems.

There is a need for standard formula in some situations. Only because we do not have human milk banks. The person who needs additional blood does not turn to a fourth-rate substitute; there are blood banks that provide human blood for human beings. He does not need to have a special illness to qualify. All he needs is a personal shortage of blood. Yet only those infants who cannot tolerate fourth best are privileged enough to receive third best. I wonder what will happen when a relatively inexpensive commercial blood is designed that carries a substantially higher health risk than donor blood. Who will be considered unimportant enough to receive it? When we find ourselves using artificial milk with a client, let's remind her and her health care providers that banked human milk ought to be available. Milk banks are more likely to become part of our culture if they first become part of our language.

We do not want to make bottlefeeding mothers feel guilty. Guilt is a concept that many women embrace automatically, even when they know that circumstances are truly beyond their control. (My mother has been known to apologize for the weather.)

Women's (nearly) automatic assumption of guilt is evident in their responses to this scenario: Suppose you have taken a class in aerodynamics. You have also seen pilots fly planes. Now, imagine that you are the passenger in a two-seat plane. The pilot has a heart attack, and it is up to you to fly the plane. You crash. Do you feel guilty?

The males I asked responded, "No. Knowing about aerodynamics doesn't mean you can fly an airplane." "No, because I would have done my best." "No. I might feel really bad about the plane and pilot, but I wouldn't feel guilty." "No. Planes are complicated to fly, even if you've seen someone do it."

What did the females say? "I wouldn't feel guilty about the plane, but I might about the pilot because there was a slight chance that I could have managed to land that plane." "Yes, because I'm very hard on myself about my mistakes. Feeling bad and feeling guilty are all mixed up for me." "Yes, I mean, of course. I know I shouldn't, but I probably would." "Did I kill someone else? If I didn't kill anyone else, then I don't feel guilty." Note the phrases "my mistakes," "I know I shouldn't," and "Did I kill anyone?" for an event over which these women would have had no control!

The mother who opts not to breastfeed, or who does not do so as long as she planned, is doing the best she can with the resources at hand. Shemay have had the standard "breast is best" spiel (the course in aerodynamics) and she may have seen a few mothers nursing at the mall (like watching the pilot on the plane's overhead screen). That is clearly not enough information or training. But she may still feel guilty. She's female.

Most of us have seen well-informed mothers struggle unsuccessfully to establish breastfeeding, and turn to bottlefeeding with a sense of acceptance because they know they did their best. And we have seen less well-informed mothers later rage against a system that did not give them the resources they later discovered they needed. Help a mother who says she feels guilty to analyze her feelings, and you may uncover a very different emotion. Someone long ago handed these mothers the word "guilt." It is the wrong word.

Try this on: You have been crippled in a serious accident. Your physicians and physical therapists explain that learning to walk again would involve months of extremely painful and difficult work with no guarantee of success. They help you adjust to life in a wheelchair, and support you through the difficulties that result. Twenty years later, when your legs have withered beyond all hope, you meet someone whose accident matched your own. "It was difficult," she says. "It was three months of sheer hell. But I've been walking every since." Would you feel guilty?

Women to whom I posed this scenario told me they would feel angry, betrayed, cheated. They would wish they could do it over with better information. They would feel regret for opportunities lost. Some of the women said they would feel guilty for not having sought out more opinions, for not having persevered in the absence of information and support. But gender-engendered guilt aside, we do not feel guilty about having been deprived of a pleasure. The mother who does not breastfeed impairs her own health, increases the difficulty and expense of infant and child rearing, an dismisses one of life's most delightful relationships. She has lost something basic to her own well-being. What image of the satisfactions of breastfeeding do we convey when we use the word "guilt"?

Let's rephrase, using the words women themselves gave me: "We don't want to make bottlefeeding mothers feel angry. We don't want to make them feel betrayed. We don't want to make them feel cheated." Peel back the layered implications of "we don't want to make them feel guilty," and you will find a system trying to cover its own tracks. It is not trying to protect her. It is trying to protect itself. Let's level with mothers, support them when breastfeeding doesn't work, and help them move beyond this inaccurate and ineffective word.

Pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. Breastfeeding is a straight-forward health issue, not one of two equivlent choices. "One disadvantage of not smoking is that you are more likely to find secondhand smoke annoying. One advantage of smoking is that it can contribute to weight loss." The real issue is differential morbidity and mortality. The rest--whether we are talking about tobacco or commercial baby milks--is just smoke.

One maternity center uses a "balanced" approach on an "infant feeding preference card" (5) that lists odorless stools and a return of the uterus to its normal size on the five lines of breastfeeding advantages. (Does this mean the bottlefeeding mother's uterus never returns to normal?) Leaking breasts and an inability to see how much the baby is getting are included on the four lines of disadvantages. A formula-feeding advantage is that some mothers find it "less inhibiting and embarrassing." The maternity facility reported good acceptance by the pediatric medical staff and no marked change in the rates of breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. That is not surprising. The information is not substantially different from the "balanced" lists that the artificial milk salesmen have peddled for years. It is probably an even better sales pitch because it now carries very clear hospital endorsement. "Fully informed," the mother now feels confident making a life-long health decision based on relative diaper smells and the amount of skin that shows during feedings.

Why do the commercial baby milk companies offer pro and con lists that acknowledge some of their product's shortcomings? Because any "balanced" approach that is presented in a heavily biased culture automatically supports the bias. If A and B are nearly equivalent, and if more than 90% of mothers ultimately choose B, as mothers in the United States do (according to an unpublished 1992 Mothers' Survey by Ross Laboratories that indicated fewer than 10% of U.S. mothers nursing at a year), it makes sense to follow the majority. If there were an important difference, surely the health profession would make a point of not staying out of the decision-making process.

It is the parents' choice to make. True. But deliberately stepping out of the process implies that the "balanced" list was accurate. In a recent issue of Parenting magazine, a pediatrician comments, "When I first visit a new mother in the hospital, I ask, 'Are you breastfeeding or bottlefeeding?' If she says she is going to bottlefeed, I nod and move on to my next questions. Supporting new parents means supporting them in whatever choices they make; you don't march in postpartum and tell someone she's making a terrible mistake, depriving herself and her child." (6)

Yet if a woman announced to her doctor, midway through a routine physical examination, that she took up smoking a few days earlier, the physician would make sure she understood the hazards, reasoning that now was the easiest time for her to change her mind. It is hypocritical and irresponsible to take a clear position on smoking and "let parents decide" about breastfeeding without first making sure of their information base. Life choices are always the individual's to make. That does not mean his or her information sources should be mute, nor that the parents who opt for bottlefeeding should be denied information that might prompt a different decision with a subsequent child.

Breastfeeding. Most other mammals never even see their own milk, and I doubt that any other mammalian mother deliberately "feeds" her young by basing her nursing intervals on what she infers the baby's hunger level to be. Nursing quiets her young and no doubt feels good. We are the only mammal that consciously uses nursing to transfer calories...and we're the only mammal that has chronic trouble making that transfer.

Women may say they "breastfed" for three months, but they usually say they "nursed" for three years. Easy, long-term breastfeeding involves forgetting about the "breast" and the "feeding" (and the duration, and the interval, and the transmission of the right nutrients in the right amounts, and the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive suckling needs, all of which form the focus of artificial milk pamphlets) and focusing instead on the relationship. Let's all tell mothers that we hope they won't "breastfeed"--that the real joys and satisfactions of the experience begin when they stop "breastfeeding" and start mothering at the breast.

All of us within the profession want breastfeeding to be our biological reference point. We want it to be the cultural norm; we want human milk to be made available to all human babies, regardless of other circumstances. A vital first step toward achieving those goals is within immediate reach of every one of us. All we have to do is...watch our language.


  1. Olds D. L., Henderson, C. R. Tatelbaum, R.: Intellectual impairment in children of women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy. Pediatrics 1994; 93:221-27.
  2. Lucas, A., Morley, R., Cole, T.J., Lister, G., Leeson-Payne, C.: Breast milk and subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm. Lancet 1992; 339 (8788): 261-64.
  3. Fruedenheim, J.L., Graham, S., Laughlin, R., Vena, J.E., Bandera, E., et al: Exposure to breastmilk in infancy and the risk of breast cancer. Epidemiology 1994, 5:324-30.
  4. UNICEF, WHO, UNESCO: Facts for Life: A Communication Challenge. New York: UNICEF 1989; p. 20.
  5. Bowles, B.B., Leache, J., Starr, S., Foster, M.: Infant feeding preferences card. J Hum Lact 1993; 9: 256-58.
  6. Klass, P.: Decent exposure. Parenting (May) 1994; 98-104.

Mr. Grumpy Pants

Joseph's been having some rough days lately... Poor guy. Hopefully whatever is bothering him (teeth? cognitive development? physical growth?) will pass soon. Until then:

I am not amused, Mom.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

FO: Preppy Vest for William

Another day, another baby. I'm getting further and further behind, we have such a baby boom going!

I used this pattern with some modifications (per usual). I really like how it turned out. I'm trying to get the gumption to make a matching hat, now. At least it'll be fast to do the hat...

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