Category Archives: babies

Sorry Working Moms, You’re Getting Bashed Again

I’m popping out of my blog-break to rant. Today I (stupidly) read an opinion piece that flat-out stated daycare is bad for kids. And that studies claiming “the kids are alright” are actually carefully crafted so as not to hurt working women’s feelings with the truth.

Naturally, working fathers were not mentioned in the post.

I’m not linking to the piece because a) I think it’s BS and b) it turns out to be an old post making the rounds a second time and you probably already read it. But allow me to rage for a moment. Or longer.

This blogger’s argument makes the following (wrong) assumptions:

That all children at home are automatically receiving higher-quality care than those in daycare.

That all women have a choice between staying home with their children, and going out to work.

That there was some golden point in history where no mother worked outside the home, and the children were all perfect as a result.

That mothers who did stay at home were always focused solely on caring for their children.

That wealthy mothers who stayed home never hired other women to care for their children. (See: Downton Abbey.)

That mothers who work outside the home today are doing so to afford “luxuries” like [insert things other families are supposed to learn to live without if only they made sacrifices].

That mothers who could afford to live comfortably off their partner’s income but choose to work to afford said luxuries are automatically bad mothers.

That mothers who do have financial choice and still opt to work outside the home because [insert any other reason] are automatically bad mothers.

That men are more ambitious than women and wouldn’t choose to stay home with their children anyway.

That fathers who work outside the home never have anything to do with the raising of their children.

That fathers who work outside the home are never doing so for selfish reasons, or even if they are, that’s ok, because men!

That women are always the better caregivers and should therefore always be the ones to stay home with the children.

That marriages never break up.

That there are no single parents.

That there are no same-sex parents.

That all women who stay home with their children want to do so.

That women can just pick up where they left off career-wise after staying home for X years to care for children.

That mothers who do stay home never have all or some of their children in daycare or preschool.

That sending a child 3.5 and up to school full-time is fine, expected even, but daycare is “letting others raise your children for you”.

I could go on. But bear with me a little longer…

Let’s just say, it’s true: children in daycare are at higher risk of x, y or z. I don’t believe it, but for the sake of argument, let’s go there. So, what now? Many if not most mothers work! Have to, want to, whatever. This is not changing! So maybe something else needs to. Maybe…

We could be a more family-friendly society over all, one that actually cares about the well-being of all children, and supports all parents in caring for theirs? Where women—and men—didn’t have to fear career-suicide for putting their families first when necessary?

There could be better parental leave for both mothers and fathers (we’re pretty fortunate here in Canada, but not everyone can take advantage of it, for financial or other reasons)?

There could be more flex-time, telecommuting, or job-sharing options?

We could value child care workers, and pay them a decent wage?

Or, what if there were more on-site daycares, so families could reduce the number of hours their children are in care and maximize the time they spend together?

What if we had universal child care, so those opting or needing to put their children in care could be assured it is of high quality, and not just what they could afford to cobble together?

What if instead of offering working mothers criticism (because let’s be honest, the articles are never about “working fathers”), we offered solutions and support?

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Portrait of Christmas Past

I bought the first stocking long before we were even trying to have a baby. Red felt with white snowflakes across the top, a happy reindeer, and one word across the toe: JOY. When we finally had our very own bundle of joy, we put his chubby, four-month-old self right into the stocking and used the photo for our Christmas card.

It was fitting, because stockings have always been my favourite part of Christmas morning.

The next year, he couldn’t fit IN the stocking of course, but we dressed him in some festive jammies and a Santa hat, and he held the stocking that once held him.

It became our own little tradition. By the fourth year, there was another baby boy, and another stocking: a sweet snowman with bell at the top of his jaunty red hat. The brothers wore matching pjs: blue, with red santas. Big brother’s smile in the photo that year revealed a grey tooth, which he’d bruised in a fall. Little brother, barely two months old, had no visible neck.

Each year it continued: different jammies, same stockings. Digital photography meant we could take as many shots as necessary to get the perfect one. Which was good, because some years it took more than 100 to get one where both boys were smiling, had their eyes open, and weren’t making a goofy face. The outtakes are as precious as the final portrait. But the best part was always seeing my two beautiful boys, arms around each other’s shoulders.

This year, I let the boys help me choose the pajamas they would wear for the photo. And though they went with “cool snowboarder” over “cute snowman”, it seemed like at 8 and 11, they were still happy to continue the tradition.

But cue all the versions of Landslide, because the annual photo shoot didn’t go as planned, and I don’t think there will be another sitting.

Just like that, things change.

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Things Not to Say to a Breastfeeding Mom

Quite a while back a friend shared an article listing things not to say to a formula-feeding mom if you want to support her. It seemed fairly common sense. But I couldn’t help thinking, in a culture where women are STILL being asked to leave public places for nursing their children, and you have to actually look to find a “welcome baby” card, a baby shower gift bag, a big brother book, a baby doll, or a parenting article without an image of a bottle (go ahead, try this at home), breastfeeding mothers need a list like this too. Especially those breastfeeding beyond whatever age is considered “normal” (three months? six months? twelve months? Everyone seems to have their own personal standard that has nothing to do with current professional recommendations!) I finally got around to writing mine:

1. “You’ve never given a bottle?! So, you never…go out alone?!” [said with a look of shock on the face] Well, if the baby is a few weeks or months old, yes, it is entirely possible we haven’t gone out alone. We’re moms now, so life has changed (I suspect many a formula-feeding mom can relate to this too!) Sometimes breastfeeding means we don’t go out. Or that we take the baby. Or some of us pump and leave a cup of ebm. Or we time outings between feedings. Or, if the baby is older, and eats solid food, it is entirely possible we go out (even to work!) and baby nurses when we’re home, and it’s really no big deal.

2. “Why don’t you just pump and leave a bottle?” It’s not that easy. Not every breastfeeding mother can successfully pump. Not every breastfeeding baby will take a bottle. And some of us don’t choose to try for a variety of reasons that really shouldn’t matter to anyone who is not us.

3. “Can’t you just leave formula this one time?” Again, not so easy. Formula isn’t breastmilk and not every baby is easily fooled. And there may be reasons why we choose not to even offer formula. Those reasons don’t have anything to do with judging other mothers for their choices, but we also feel we shouldn’t be judged for ours. Or pressured to change them.

4. “You ARE going to wean him to bottles and formula eventually, right?” [also said with a look of shock] Perhaps that is what some plan to do. When and how and why are also not really anyone’s business. But some of us, perhaps after struggling to make breastfeeding work, are in no hurry to change things. If it’s not broke…And, it matters to you why?

5.”Would you like a blanket? Or do you want to go into the other room/bathroom?” [said when we’ve settled down to feed in a *gasp* public place, or even just someone’s home] No. Just don’t. If we wanted a blanket, we’d have asked for a blanket (but probably not–we have a lot of our own blankets, thanks). Or left the room. And some of us do because that is how we feel comfortable (or because we have nosy babies who have a hard time eating when there are people to look at!) You might feel like you are offering “discretion” for our comfort–instead you are making your own unease obvious. And drawing attention to something others probably wouldn’t haven’t even noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out (my sister likes to tell of a male friend going on about how he didn’t think women should breastfeed in front of others completely oblivious to the fact that she was nursing her newborn at that moment.)

6. “You’ve breastfed for HOW long?/How long ARE you going to breastfeed for?” [there’s that shocked tone and facial expression again] Did you know the average age of weaning for a human is between 2-4 years? No, of course you didn’t, or you wouldn’t give a flying fig how long other mothers and babies nurse for. Now you know.

7. “Oh I could just never do that.”What, exactly, are we supposed to say in response? “Sorry”? “Yes you could”? “No, you’re right, you probably couldn’t”? “Yeah, it is kind of weird”? “Way to make me feeding my baby all about you”? And really, that is what most of these comments do.

8. “I’m all for breastfeeding, but…” Stop. Just stop. If you have to add a but, and outline just exactly how any other woman who is not you should breastfeed, you are NOT “for” breastfeeding. You are part of the problem.

9. “You are only doing it for yourself.” I am not even sure what that means. It is true there are benefits for the nursing mother. And there are risks to not breastfeeding, so if you mean we’re doing what we can to minimize those for ourselves and our children, then…okay? Or if you mean it’s easier for us to continue breastfeeding than to wean a child who is not ready, well, yeah, busted! But if you mean we must get some weird pleasure out of it beyond seeing our child fed and comforted, and are forcing the child to continue against his will–LOL. You’ve clearly never nursed a toddler! Or HAD a toddler, and tried to “make” her do anything.

10. “You know, if you just stopped nursing, s/he’d sleep through the night.” Actually, there are no guarantees these things go hand in hand–trust me on this. My 8 year old just started sleeping through the night, and he weaned many years ago. I’m sure many bottlefeeding mothers will tell you they aren’t getting a solid 8 hours either. It may be entirely possible that we accept that caring for a baby or toddler, no matter how they are fed, often means getting up in the night, and will deal with it as long as we need to. And if we’re complaining, we may just want commiseration, not to be told what we’re doing “wrong”.

So if you’ve ever felt compelled to comment on how, where, how long, or why a mother breastfeeds, think before you speak. And then, probably just don’t. Unless it’s to say “way to go”, or talk about something completely different.

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Things I Don’t Regret

Before I had kids, there were lots of things I was never going to do. And there were lots of things I was told never to do, or I’d regret it. Ten years into this parenting gig though, the kids seem to be doing all right, so I can tell you there are a number of choices that I don’t regret. Not at all. Here are some of them:

Breastfeeding my infants on demand around the clock. Breastfeeding past infancy. Not forcing them to wean when they weren’t ready. “Encouraging” them to wean when we both were.

Co-sleeping. “They” said we’d never get them out of our bed. “They” were wrong. If anything I regret not doing it sooner.

Rocking them to sleep. Nursing them to sleep. Staying with them until they fell asleep. Letting them nap in my arms, in the swing, in the car. Those years seem so long ago.

Vaccinating.

Picking my babies up when they cried. Carrying my kids as long as I could.

Not potty training. Amazingly, they have been out of diapers for a long, long time, despite the lack of candy or sticker rewards!

Encouraging my kids to take part in different activities. Not pushing them into activities.

Having a child in daycare. Working full time. Having a nanny. Staying home. Being a student-mom. Working part time. Working from home. It’s all good. Honest.

Taking a year of maternity leave. Having my kids three years apart. Taking my preschooler out of daycare while I was on mat leave with BB#2.

Putting my kids in French Immersion.

Not forcing them to do homework in Grade One.

Taking a stroller to Disneyland for my almost-5-year-old. Judge away, at least we had fun!

Spending money on books. Reading to my kids after they could read to themselves.

Letting my kids watch TV and play video games. Not letting my kids watch or play everything their friends are watching or playing.

Giving them choice over their hairstyles.

Staying with them on playdates when they were younger. Letting them walk around the block alone together now that they’re older.

Telling them the proper names for body parts and being honest about where babies come from.

Not being Pinterest-perfect.

Letting them believe in Santa Claus. Not getting into Elf on the Shelf.

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To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate: Is There a Question?

During my BEd studies, I got called out by one of my professors for talking in class. She had made a dismissive comment about people choosing not to vaccinate their children and relying on herd immunity to keep them healthy.

“Not necessarily,” I commented to the pregnant woman beside me, not quite as under my breath as I’d thought.

The professor asked me to explain. I told her that some people felt the vaccines were riskier than the diseases they were meant to prevent. They weren’t necessarily relying on other people to keep their children healthy—they actually accepted that they might get sick, and hoped they would build up natural immunity. It wasn’t simply that they were OK with the rest of us pumping chemicals into our kids so that they didn’t have to.

Being Canadian, she later apologized to me for any offense, and I apologized in return for interrupting her lecture. And we both made it clear that our own children were, in fact, fully immunized.

So why was I defending anti-vaxxers? When my children were born, I had questioned vaccines, or at least the number and frequency of shots they were scheduled to receive. I came into contact, at least online, with other parents who were concerned—not so much about the (now disproven) autism link (though there were some of those), but with the idea of injecting their perfect babies for what they considered treatable illnesses in this age of modern medicine. There was a certain sense in the arguments.

I could also understand questioning standard medical advice. Already as a new mom, I’d learned that doctors aren’t perfect, and don’t always agree. If I had listened to my OB, I would have believed there was no benefit to delayed cord cutting, because she hadn’t heard of it in 2004. If I had listened to the nurses in the hospitals where my sons were born, I wouldn’t have succeeded in breastfeeding. If I had listened to my pediatrician, I never would have breastfed past 6 months, and would have let my baby cry himself to sleep. If I had listened to my family doctor, I would have accepted that my sons’ PFAPA was a series of viruses. Heck, solid feeding guidelines changed by the time my firstborn was 6 months old, and have changed at least once since then! So it was no surprise that some parents weren’t in a hurry to get their babies vaccinated, no questions asked.

In the end, my husband and I did ask questions, and chose to go with our instincts and our doctors’ recommendations (it helped that they were parents of young children themselves and could honestly tell us they’d chosen to vaccinate their babies). But I could still understand that other parents might not make the same choice.

So I find the current anti-anti-vaxxer backlash that I’m witnessing online and in the media quite interesting. I find myself agreeing more and more with the idea that we need to work together to keep ALL children in our society healthy, and that science isn’t evil. As some have pointed out on Twitter, peanut butter is not welcome at schools, so measles shouldn’t be either.

But then again, most years we’ve resisted the hype and chosen not to get the flu shot, and apparently that was a good call this year. So what would I do if it was suddenly made mandatory?

Note: edited to add sixth paragraph, February 7, 2015.

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Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children (Part 3)

Sleeping like a baby. People keep using that phrase, but I do not think it means what they think it means. In our house sleeping like a baby meant napping for 20 minutes at a time, never at the same time of day, and waking up in the night every two to three hours well beyond the age of two (and okay, maybe three…)

But I lived to tell about it, and if you are currently discovering that your life revolves around sleep (lack of it, getting baby to do it, getting baby back to it, people asking about it…), you will too. I promise. Here are some random things I wish I could go back and tell stressed out, sleepless, new-mom-me:

 1. Go ahead and rock that baby.

I roll my eyes now every time I read yet another article advising against the horrors of rocking your baby to sleep. These articles never say what will happen if you do it anyway. But I will tell you: nothing. Nothing will happen. Oh, you may find you are rocking your baby to sleep for the next little while, but I say, do what works now.

Here are a few of the things we did to get our kids to sleep, or back to sleep: nursing, rocking, bouncing, swaddling, babywearing, dancing, co-sleeping, soother, infant swing, white noise machine, stroller, car rides, bedtime stories. Basically, we broke all the rules. And you know what? The boys grew out of each and every one of these “bad habits”.

These days, BB#1 reads to himself, gets up, turns off his own light at the appointed time, and goes to sleep. And stays asleep until I wake him up the next morning. BB#2 still likes someone to stay with him while he falls asleep (usually about 10 minutes), and you know what we don’t have as a result? Bedtime battles. When parents complain about the hours it takes to get their kids to bed and the meltdowns that usually occur, I can’t relate. Because it simply doesn’t happen here.

Conclusion: we didn’t wreck them by meeting their needs! In fact, I’d say our approach has resulted in sleep being a positive experience for all involved.

So go ahead and pick up your baby because this stage, like so many others, is temporary, and it goes by fast. I know like his brother before him, BB#2 will one day tell me he doesn’t need me to stay with him. And I’ll miss the cuddles.

2. Babies don’t care about schedules.

Before I had a baby of my own, I had this impression that if they woke up in the night, it was at predictable times—I’d heard something about two a.m. feedings? Maybe you can count on yours to wake at regularly scheduled intervals, but all I knew was that mine would be up, and often.

3. Babies make great alarm clocks.

Many new parents seem really, really surprised that their days of sleeping in on weekends are over. My kids were generally ready to play around five-thirty or six a.m. every day of the week. Particularly cruel when I’d been up with them every two or three hours the whole night. I’d like to say I wisely started going to bed when they did, or napped when they napped, but that wouldn’t be true. Let’s just say I started fantasizing about the next morning’s coffee the afternoon before.

4. Parenting is not shift work.

You don’t work 12 hours, get 12 hours off. Even when your children start sleeping long stretches, you aren’t off the hook. They do get sick sometimes or have nightmares or get teeth, or just need a hug [even the writing of this post was interrupted by post-tonsillectomy BB#2 waking up in need of pain medication]. If you never wanted to be disturbed in the night, you should have gone for that goldfish.

5. Two hour naps are a myth.

Okay they probably aren’t myth, but they sure didn’t happen in my home. I eventually had to accept the fact that my happy, healthy, normally developing children were getting enough sleep for them, even if it never seemed like enough for me!

6. Weaning doesn’t guarantee your child will start sleeping through the night.

And it might mean you now have one less tool to get him back to sleep. So nightwean if and when it works for you and your child, but ignore anyone who claims your sleep woes will be completely resolved by cutting out night nursing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

7. The only thing to get used to in the first year is change.

Yes, I’ve said this before, but it’s true. Don’t fret if your baby sleeps through the night at one point, and doesn’t a few months later. In fact I’d say count on it.

8. When people ask how the baby is sleeping…

…tell them “like a baby”. You’ll know what you mean, and they’ll think that they do. And if they persist in the “isn’t she sleeping through the night YET?!” comments, don’t take it personally. There is nothing wrong with your child, there is nothing wrong with you. (And ask yourself if the person inquiring is possibly too old to remember what caring for a baby is really like.)

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2 of Random Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Had Children. And check out a few of my Favourite Links on the topic of sleep.

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Royally Overexposed

You might have noticed, I love motherhood. And I’m outspoken on all things birth and breastfeeding. So you might think I was one of the millions waiting with bated breath for the announcement that a rich, gorgeous couple I’ve never met had had their first baby today.

You’d be wrong.

Oh, I was following the news—it was impossible to avoid on Twitter. Heck, even Starbucks and Well.ca and other accounts I follow for deals and sales tweeted congrats to the new parents! But while I am apparently in the minority, and will no doubt come off like a humbug for admitting this, I don’t see why the birth of the little prince was such big news for anyone not related to him. And okay, maybe for the people of Britain. Yes, yes, all babies are wonderful etc. etc. and I wish them all happy and healthy. Truly. But why are some babies front-page news from the moment they are conceived (or even before, in the case of this child)? What is our societal obsession with the offspring of the rich and famous, or infamous? No really, I want to know, because I don’t get it.

You’re probably thinking: “this child is heir to the British throne! It’s a historic day!” To which I have to respond, meh. Despite the image of the queen on my money, I don’t feel the monarchy is at all relevant to me personally, or to Canada. I don’t think of them as my royal family. I don’t see them as having any real power. They’re just a remnant of an archaic system—a very expensive, privileged remnant.

It’s not just this particular baby, though (and I’m sure he’s lovely, and William and Kate are over the moon, as they should be). I feel the same way about the constant reporting on any celebrity pregnancy, birth, or baby. Is the media feeding an actual demand? And if so, who is demanding it? Why do we care how much weight this model gained during pregnancy, or how this actress conceived long after 40, or if that singer is going to change his child’s diapers? Why do reporters follow celebrities’ children around, feeding us earth-shattering news about who is “still” nursing, who “still” has a pacifier, who got what expensive gift for her birthday? And why, despite the fact I don’t seek out this information, am I still surrounded by it (stood in a grocery store line lately?)

Already I’ve seen links to articles on what the royal baby’s personality will be, based on his astrological sign. And headlines suggesting his sex is a disappointment to the public! (actually I know a bit about that…) The child is a few hours old, people. You know what I’m not looking forward to: the media falling all over itself for the first images of the prince. And any bets on how long* it will take the press to report on how quickly the (already genetically blessed, and wealthy enough to employ a trainer and nutritionist and nanny) Duchess will get back her “pre-baby bod”? I guarantee the words “flaunting” or “showing off” will be used in the headlines the moment the woman steps out in public, as long as she looks good, and especially if she dares to wear a swimsuit some place crazy like a beach on a private family vacation (which won’t really be private). If she retains a pound or two, well, she’ll surely be publicly shamed for that too.

Okay, I admit, even I am mildly curious what the new prince will be called. But it’s almost certain his name will contain any or all of the following: William, Charles, Phillip, Edward, Henry, James, David or George**. Nothing “unique” for this baby, I’ll wager. (I have a theory that all those bizarre names (Bear Blue, Pilot Inspektor, North West) celebrities give their children are really to throw off the public and the media, so plain old Ann or Jack or whatever can lead a somewhat normal life in private.)

On one hand, I feel sorry for celebrities, who have to endure the media glare during the most intimate moments of their lives. I could not imagine knowing there were crowds and cameras outside while I laboured. Talk about pressure! But on the other, I’m sure there are more than a few fringe benefits to being rich and famous that make up for all of that. Celebrities have to know going into the fame game what it means for their privacy, and many of them actively court the cameras (I still have no clue why the Kardashians are famous, but I get the sense it was not thrust upon them.)

The children of celebrities, though, have no such choice in the matter. So it would be nice if we left them alone. But somehow, I don’t see that happening.

*ETA: apparently less than 48 hours (though in fairness, there has been a lot of positive about the fact she didn’t try to hide her post-partum belly–and good on her! Because YES, after you grow and give birth to another human, you still look pregnant immediately afterwards!)

**ETA: George Alexander Louis it is.

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