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Friday, May 17, 2013

You're a good mum

You may (or may not) have seen the post floating around facebook that is addressed 'To the mom who is...' it goes on to list things that mums do and affirming those choices, whether they are to breastfeed or bottle feed, cloth diaper or disposable diaper. I both love and hate this post. I love it because at heart, it's right. There are so many different ways to be a good parent that it's impossible to pick one or two aspects and use them to measure your success as a parent. Judging other parental choices is fairly arbitrary and doesn't actually help us support each other. So kudos for writing this.

I dislike this post because even though it talks about accepting certain parenting choices, it still frames those choices in a way that manages to still exclude a whole spectrum of parenting values that are just as valid. Sometimes parenting isn't just about breastfeeding versus formula feeding or happy meals vs organic meals. There is more to it than that, and by omission this post actually does more to exclude some parenting options than it does to support all parenting choices. I am fully aware that this post was more than likely written entirely from someone's personal perspective, so of course they are going to post about what is relevant to them, and that's okay. But  I've decided to do my own version in response. I hope you like it.

I apologise in advance for this being addressed to mums, I appreciate that most of these things are a parental issue not necessarily just a maternal issue. But I wanted to keep it simple. So where it says 'mum' you can simply assume that dad or parent would work just as well.

To the mum who’s breastfeeding: Awesome work mama, breastfeeding is valuable, to you and your baby and any length of time that you manage between you is phenomenal. Whether that is 4 days or 4 years. You’re an awesome mum

To the mum who’s bottlefeeding: Awesome work mama, you’re feeding your baby, and whether that’s expressed breastmilk, formula or donor milk, you’re doing an amazing job and your baby values those close moments. You’re an awesome mum.

To the cloth nappy mama: Cloth nappies are just so darn cute, the environment and your baby’s bum thank you. Stunning work, you’re a good mum.

To the sposie mama: Laundry is tough work and skipping the extra loads frees up time to be with your baby. Stunning work, you’re a good mum.

To the stay at home mum: You’re doing a 24/7 job with no sick days or holidays, but your boss loves you and even though the going can get tough, you’re up to the task. The time you spend now is so valuable. You’re a great mum

To the working mum: Being away from your babies can be tough sometimes but you still rock it. You may not be at home as much but you make it count, your children value your contribution to the family and your house is filled with love. You’re a great mum.

To the co-sleeping mum: Holding your baby close is an amazing way to nurture them at a physiological and emotional level, those close times during sleep will be with them their whole lives. What am amazing gift you are sharing. You’re a good mum.

To the cot-sleeping mum: You’ve made a special space for your baby to sleep, as you settle them gently to sleep each night they can feel your love, they know if they call out you’ll be there to give comfort if they need it. What a lovely sleep space you’ve got. You’re a good mum.

To the comfort suckling mum: It’s wonderful that you can provide your baby’s emotional and physical need to suckle at the breast. You’re a good mum.

To the pacifier mum: Sometimes your baby wants to suckle for comfort but doesn’t want or need a feed, a dummy is a great option for those moments. You’re a good mum.

To the baby led weaning mum: What a great idea, feeding your baby whole foods and in a natural form is an excellent way to introduce them to food when they are developmentally ready. You’re a good mum

To the puree mum: Pureed food introduced at the right time is a lovely way to be engaged in feeding your baby. You can sneak so many good things into those purees too. You’re a good mum.

To the babywearing mum: Babywearing is an amazing way to hold your baby close and still get on with life. It’s the best of both worlds, enjoy it while it lasts! You’re a good mum

To the stroller using mum: Strollers are an amazing way for both of you to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors. Have fun on your adventures. You’re a good mum

To the whole food mum: Phenomenal, you have made an effort to feed your child the best possible food within your family budget and they will get value from that throughout their life. You’re a good mum.

To the quick meals mum: You do the best with what you have, sometimes there is not enough time in the day to make the food you’d choose to if you had unlimited time and money. And you know what, even though you’re pushed for time those kids are fed and nourished. You’re a good mum.

To the vaccinating mum: Good work, you’ve made an informed decision and it is the right decision for your family. You’re a good mum

To the non vaccinating mum: Good work, you’ve made an informed decision and it is the right decision for your family. You’re a good mum

To the smacking, shaming, emotionally neglectful, circumcising (medical circumcisions excluded) parent. Being a parent is hard. It's hard to always do the right thing or make the right decision. It's okay to make mistakes and move past them. It's okay to do some more research to understand why these things are harmful. Forgive yourself and move forwards. If you ask, your child will forgive you too.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Everybody Hates Breastfeeders

Mislactony is probably a word you had never heard of, but I’ll bet you have heard of misogyny.
Misogyny is: Misogyny (pron :mi-soj-uh-nee) is:
The hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
Mislactony is a word I made up, (What? You can do that???) sure, why not.
Mislactony: (pron.:/ mis-lak-tuh-nee is:The hatred or dislike of breastfeeding. Mislactony can be manifested in numerous ways including discrimination against breastfeeding women, denigration of breastfeeding and women who breastfeed, violence (verbal or otherwise) against women who breastfeed and the sexual objectification of women in such a way that interferes with breastfeeding.

I made up this word because I believe there is a singular culture that sits alongside misogyny and it is the process whereby breastfeeding women and advocates are denigrated, undermined, treated with verbal violence, objectified, sexualised and discriminated against.
Some of you reading this will take this as a cue to roll your eyes. No WAY you think, breastfeeding women have it ALL, not only do they think they are gods gift to human kind, but they are smug know it alls that get government support AND a bigger cup size. How dare they complain?
But the truth of the matter is that women who breastfeed are still in the minority, the WHO advises that less than 40% of infants less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed worldwide. When you look at figures at 12 months and 2 years, breastfeeding becomes very niche indeed. Women who breastfeed are still excluded from basic rights such as fair employment or being allowed to eat in public. Breastfeeding is still both actively and passively undermined, and people who advocate for breastfeeding are still openly criticised and bullied.
There are people who actively hate breastfeeding and all boob kind and there are people who undermine breastfeeding while at the same time purporting to support it. For many women the pressure to not breastfeed is strong and sometimes it is relentless.

Despite all of this, many people still think that breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocacy is a sanctimonious and blessed pastime reserved only for the self indulgent, privileged or the very stubborn.

 So what does mislactony look like? A lot like misogyny

Control of attire: When women are told how much or how little they can wear, or what style of clothing they can wear, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘cover up’ ‘feed discretely’ or be ‘modest’ this is mislactony.
Reduced rights in employment: When women are excluded from employment or receive lesser pay or prestige based on their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is refused employment or she experiences discrimination based on her lactation status, this is mislactony. In NZ 38% of all women who stop breastfeeding at 3 months, do so because they must return to work.
Socially acceptable derogatory terms:  When a woman is called a feminazi, bull dyke lezzo or butch bulldog for requesting equal rights, this is misogyny. When a lactivist is called ‘the breastapo’ or a ‘BF Nazi’ or a ‘tit hitler’ for requesting equal rights, this is mislactony.
Body autonomy: When a woman is not afforded the rights to her own body this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told that her breasts are for her husband, or that she is simply not allowed to breastfeed, this is mislactony.

Derogatory terms based on sex: When a woman is called a bitch, a slut, a whore, a witch or other gender based insults, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is called a cow or similar based on the function of her breasts, this is mislactony.
Control of basic day to day activities: When a woman is prevented from leaving the house, is not permitted to drive or perform other normal day to day activities, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘stay at home’ to feed their baby or ‘express to feed’ or simply to bottlefeed rather than feed in public, this is mislactony.
Denigration of specifically female functions: When women are degraded based on their physical attributes or their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman has the act of breastfeeding compared to defecating, urinating or other acts that are considered unpleasant this is mislactony.
Controlling of how we manifest: When women are told how to behave to meet certain societal expectations of sexiness, attractiveness and modesty, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told how they must breastfeed, how long they must breastfeed, when they must breastfeed. This is mislactony.
When support systems are removed: When support networks or systems that are essential to women specifically, such as rape crisis, fertility support and women’s refuge are removed, maligned or attacked, this is misogyny. When support systems such as volunteer service La Leche League are attacked or there is limited access to medical staff who are trained in lactation support, not enough lactation consultants or even medical staff who actively undermine breastfeeding, this is mislactony.

 When advocacy is shut down: When women who talk about feminism or womens rights are shut down using predictable rhetoric such as accusations of misandry or man hating. This is misogyny. When breastfeeding women who advocate for breastfeeding are shut down with predictable rhetoric such as accusing them of hating on formula feeding mums, this is mislactony.
When inherent abilities are undermined: When women are told they are inferior simply on the basis of their sex, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told that their milk is inadequate, runs out of goodness or that their breasts are inadequate, this is mislactony.
Sexual double standards: When women are judged based on their sexuality in ways that men are not, or are required to be both sexy and virginal at the same time, this is misogyny. When women who are breastfeeding are told to keep their breasts concealed, that no one needs to see that or that they are disgusting and getting a thrill from feeding their child, while at the same time we have breasts plastered all over our malls, billboards and magazines and sex is used to advertise almost everything under the sun, this is mislactony.

I know that to many of you a lot of these seem extreme or tenuous, but the thing is, they are not. These are real incidents and they happen on a daily basis. If we want to give every woman a chance to best meet her breastfeeding goals, it is not to tell them how breast is best, or how bad formula is. It is simply to stop all the mislactony!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Birthing Affirmations

Trusting our own births is one of the most important thing you can do to ensure a physiologically normal birth. A calm relaxed body dilates faster, a relaxed body allows the muscles of the uterus to work more effectively and puts baby under less stress. If anxiety and fear slow labour and make it more painful, then calm and relaxation hasten it and make it feel better. Women who reach deep levels of relaxation can actually have euphoric or orgasmic births

The problem comes when we live in a society that tells us birth is to be feared, that it is dangerous and painful and deadly. These messages reinforce our inner doubts and anxieties. A woman who fears birth does not trust her body, she doubts her ability to birth and in a nasty twist of irony, this actually lessens her ability to birth well and birth safely. 

A tense and scared body cannot relax, the uterus does not contract as effectively and it contracts painfully, which ends up being a vicious circle of fear and pain. A tense body does not release oxytocin or endorphins, it releases catecholamines (adrenaline and other hormones) which block oxytocin. This increases heart rate and breathing rate and stresses your baby.
So how do we trust birth again?

One thing that can help are birthing affirmations. They speak to your inner conscious and repeated enough will actually reaffirm your trust in your body. Here are some affirmations you can use. I had mine playing on an audio track so I could listen to them while walking or resting. Print them and put them on your loo wall, make flashcards, have your birthing partner read them to you. Every day absorb these affirmations and let them do their work.

My body is completely relaxed and ready for birth
I feel the waves of labour wash over me
I relax my mind and my muscles.
My body will give birth in its own time.
My body is totally relaxed
My jaw is relaxed my cervix is opening
My baby is totally relaxed
I am not afraid, I am serene
I surrender my body to birth my baby
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I am a strong and capable woman
I can feel my baby move along the birth path
I surrender to the power of labour
Each wave brings my baby closer to me
My cervix opens like a blossom in the sun
Childbirth is a normal, healthy event
I trust my body, I trust my baby
I relax my body to birth my baby
I will labour like the women before me, with power and in peace
With each breath I relax, my baby is ready
My body is filled with the power and serenity of birth
Birth is a natural and happy event
I feel safe, secure and relaxed
I feel my body relaxing more and more
My baby is ready
I breathe my baby down the birth path
My body opens to birth my baby
My body is loose and limp, my jaw is loose and limp
Each breath brings my baby closer to me
My body is powerful and capable
I am deeply relaxed

My pelvis releases and opens as have those of countless women before me
My muscles are warm and heavy and I am totally relaxed
This is a sacred moment for my baby and I
I am in the moment
I feel each breath as it comes, I feel each surge as it comes and it is wonderful
I move, I sway, I dance, I walk, I squat, I kneel, I birth.
I am ready to birth my baby
I trust the process of birth
Birth is a happy and healthy state of being
Babies are made to be born and my body is made to birth them
Birth is normal and natural
I follow my baby's lead
Babies are made to be born, women are made to birth
I am peaceful, my baby is peaceful
My body opens naturally and with euphoria

I trust my body and my baby
I am filled with love for my baby, my baby is filled with love for me
The hormones for loving and birthing are the same. Love birth

With each surge I feel stronger and more relaxed
I close my eyes and sink deeper into a place of serenity
My pelvis is flexible and open, my baby is ready

The power of birth flows from my head to my belly, from my lungs to my cervix
I honour my mother and my grandmother with this birth
My power comes from within
I breathe, I roar, I sing, I moan I birth.
I look forwards to the time of our birth
My body grew this baby, it can birth this baby
The hormones that birth this baby will let me feed my baby
I sink into the powerful feelings of birth
As each wave crashes on the beach I breathe
Birth is as old as humanity, it is perfect
My body knows what to do, I relax and let it birth in peace
I am serene
I am an island in the ocean and the waves crash over me
We are ready for this baby
Our baby is loved and welcomed and ready
I am ready for birth

Obviously some of these will resonate with you and some will not, you can even write your own! But the key is repetition, every day talk to yourself (er just not out loud?) and reaffirm your power to birth well.

Trust me, 

Trust YOURSELF, trust birth ;)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

20 Days of Mess

Often when I post pictures of my house people tell me how clean it is in tones of hushed awe and disbelief. No one with kids can have a clean house - surely? Surely I don't! 

Photos only ever tell half of the story, more often than not I pick a good moment or photograph with a clear background. Nothing spoils a beautiful shot more than a looming pile of laundry in the background.  The reality is my house is in a constant state of ever evolving clutter.

Housework is often the last thing on my list during a busy day of parenting, and I mildly resent housework being considered to be the role of a stay at home mum, almost more than parenting is. There are whole websites devoted to women keeping the house clean and pinterest pages extolling the virtues of decluttering and organisation. I dream of having a house that tidy, but my dream falls short of devoting every spare minute to it. My husband and I share housework and as result, during the day, our lounge often looks like a clothing bomb exploded inside. It's a rare day that the sofa isn't covered in laundry and the floor is not covered in toys. But we enjoy our days, which means more to me than a tidy floor.

and worse

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why are clouds so big?

By Friday I've generally lost all my oomph for the week and a day of good intentions turns into lazy parenting, screen time and impatient mum. Its been pushing the guilt button for a month or so now, so I decided to listen to what my inner voice was telling me.

Today when my 4yr old asked one of his tricky questions 'Why is the cloud so big?' instead of fobbing him off with the quickest answer I could summon, I decided to drop everything and follow his lead.

A conversation about clouds turned into thunderstorms and lightning, some youtube videos helped us learn how lightning worked and we looked at some pictures of how beautiful lightning looked and listened to the noises it makes. I wanted to find a way to extend his experience I dug around in my memory banks for a favourite childhood activity and we started some wet on wet watercolours using candles as a dye resist. Before starting we wiggled the paper so that it made noises like thunder and lightning.

From a lightning filled sky we started talking about stars, and galaxies and moons. We started another page, and after showing him how to use salt to add texture to the paints he got excited and we emptied the pantry for other things that absorbed moisture. Our paper became a textural exploration in time and space (corny I know)

The whole time we created we talked, he asked questions, I could only answer half of them, but we had fun, so much fun. Learning this way is magical.

Here are the fruits of our labour.

Candle wax acts as a resist for the dye, magical pictures appear out of nowhere.

Sago, semolina, tapioca, citric acid and salt.

Fun with textures!

Salt creates a lovely speckled texture

Rice grains absorb the moisture and create swirly patterns in the paint.

We learned about red dwarf stars, he wanted to know why the stars were different colours and not just white. I muttered something about light and gases...

Looks a little bit about the pleiades