Archive for July, 2010
Those New Zealanders–they come up with all the cool ideas!
I was on the T the other day, and my almost two-year-old son wanted to nurse. He’s a pretty energetic, always-on-the-go kid, so basically I think he figures that if we’re on the T and we have to be sitting down, well, heck, he’s there, the breast is there, so he might as well.
This was the Orange Line, midday but still crowded near downtown, and I had a large man with headphones at my left and an older woman on my right. The older woman had already smiled at Marcus when we entered and he was on my back, and then again when I took him down and sat him on my lap. Then, Marcus was nursing with his head toward her, but I was wearing a nursing top with empire-style openings so there really wasn’t any skin showing. She kind of looked over at him at that point, and then looked closer, and said, “Ah!” when she figured out what he was doing.
“How old?” she asked me.
“Almost two,” I said.
“Very good,” she said, “very good!”
We went on to have a nice conversation–she told me she’s from Eithiopia, she nursed all her babies as long as she could, until they stopped on their own or she got pregnant again, or both, but that her daughter, living here, only used bottles and she didn’t think anyone did things “the old way” anymore.
That was absolutely the encounter I needed this week!
After Monday’s NYTimes article about the flawed home birth study, I leave you with more positive news: This article, about using a carbohydrate-based mouthwash as a rinse (not swallowed) to provide athletes with an added boost of energy seems potentially huge to me. The study looked at athletes “in intense bouts of exercise, lasting an hour or so,” which sounds a lot like the pushing phase of labor. Though many home birth midwives encourage women to eat and drink during labor, some feel nauseated and unable to keep anything down; furthermore, the article explains, “when blood is diverted from the stomach to working muscles during intense exercise, drinks or foods cause stomach cramps,” which is the last thing you want during hard labor.
“‘You can get an advantage from tricking your brain,’ said a discoverer of the effect, Matt Bridge, a senior lecturer in coaching and sports science at the University of Birmingham in England. ‘Your brain tells your body, “Carbohydrates are on the way.” And with that message, muscles and nerves are prompted to work harder and longer.’
“It’s a relatively small effect, said George A. Brooks, an exercise researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved with the research. But a small difference, he added, ‘can make a big difference. . . .’”
The New York Times, under the headline “Home Birth May Add a Wrinkle,” today describes a new study on home birth that claims it’s more dangerous for babies.
Despite that terrifying lead-in, the article notes that even “the lead author, urged caution in interpreting the results. ‘Since this comes primarily from non-U.S. data sources, particularly from places that have a very different midwifery model than we do, it’s limited,’ he said.”
That alone should be cause for concern; midwives quoted in the article raise further skepticism about its conclusions, however:
“Mary Lawlor, president of the National Association of Certified Professional Midwives, found the study defective. ‘His methodology is deeply flawed,’ she wrote in an e-mail message, accusing the authors of ‘obscuring important information about the safety of home birth and neonatal outcomes.’”
My son is twenty-three months old and still nurses a lot–before bed and naps, in the morning, 2-6+ times a night, and 2-10+ times a day. It’s so funny trying to even come up with these numbers, because his nursing is so dependent on a number of variables–the only constant, again, is that he does nurse a lot: if he only nurses twice in the day because we’re out and about and he’s busy, then he nurses all night long, and vice versa. If he sees me in the bathtub, he climbs in with me and nurses there (he usually holds a naked baby doll in the tub, so we’re this happy confusion of mama and baby and baby and milk and water). If he sees me sitting at my computer in the dining room in the afternoon, he climbs on my lap and nurses there.
I know a number of women who have nursed past age two, but many say they only breastfeed morning and night. Others say they told their child that the milk stays in the house–in other words, they stopped breastfeeding in public. It’s true that societal pressure to stop ramps up wildly at this age, but I feel like breastfeeding–now that my son really knows what it is–is all the sweeter, and neither he nor I want to stop anytime soon.
In May, though, I stoppped pumping at work–I was down to just one pump a day, and I slowly weaned myself off that. Now, when I work (three days a week) I can make it through the day without being uncomfortable or engorged.
This month, in response to my husband’s perpetual “how long are you going to do that for?” exasperated comments, I decided I would adopt a “don’t-offer-don’t-refuse” technique when out of the house, so, barring scraped knees or tantrums, I’ve been trying not to offer the breast. At home, sure, but out, I figure I won’t refuse if he asks, but I won’t offer it.
Here’s the humorous part: Up until now, my son has never had a word or a sign for nursing. In retrospect, I realize that’s because he never needed one–even when we were out, I always just popped out a breast at a whimper or peep or even a frown. In the last week, though, my creative son developed a way to ask, quite clearly, for the breast: He opens his mouth into the nursing position and lets his lower jaw drop as though he’s swallowing, and vocalizes, so what comes out is a (not quiet) “wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh.” He continues the sound until he’s actually latched on, and he does this while sitting on my lap (climbing up if necessary) and facing the breast.
So yeah, so much for the first tentative tiny steps toward weaning my toddler. I’m pretty pleased with the way this has worked out, actually–it’s pretty cute, and makes me laugh every time. Plus, it’s so much more obvious that we’re nursing in public that my husband now rolls his eyes at us and has stopped making comments!
Somehow I never happened upon Denise Punger’s Permission to Mother: Going Beyond the Standard-of-Care to Nurture Our Children (Outskirts Press, 2007) when I was pregnant–I’m not sure where I heard of it now, even, but I took it out of the Boston Public Library and had the most enjoyable time reading through it. The author is a doctor and board-certified lactation consultant who practices in the rare field of breastfeeding medicine; much of the book is comprised of her memoirs of her own medical training and her own, early, medicalized birth experiences before realizing there had to be another way. She talks about homebirth, doulas, tandem nursing, breastfeeding amidst obstacles, extended (natural-term) breastfeeding, and the role of partners/fathers in birth and breastfeeding. Here’s one great quote to get you interested in the book:
“I often speak to women who opt not to have a homebirth because someone doesn’t support that decision–their husbands, mothers, in-laws, you name it. If you are going to wait for everyone’s support, you’ll wait forever. If having a homebirth is important to you, you have to be the one to make the choice. Don’t ask your partner, ‘Do you think I should interview a midwife?’ Instead, say, ‘My appointment with the midwife is on Monday.’ Then go on Monday.”
This weekend I went to a friend’s wedding about two hours west of Chicago, in the middle of farm-country Illinois. The friend was nice enough to include my son on the invitation, so we gladly brought him along. What a wonderful, family-friendly wedding this was–there were babies and kids everywhere, so much so that my son couldn’t stop talking about them during the ceremony. “Baby!” he said, pointing behind us. “Girl!” (looking off to our left), “Baby!” (across the aisle), “Girl!” (several rows back), “Baby!” (three rows in front of us).
At the reception, when I thanked the bride again for inviting all of us (and while my son played on the edge of the dance floor with three of the groom’s tiny cousins), she said it was nothing–they of course wanted to include all the kids. “The caterers looked at us kind of strangely, though,” she said, “when we told them we had ten infants and fourteen kids between two and ten!”
Wow–ten infants, fourteen kids? My two-year-old son was in heaven–there really were babies everywhere!
Still, though, my son is insistent that he is not a baby. If my husband says something to me from the back of the house, “Do you have the baby’s shoes?”, say, and I yell back that I do, my son will start asking where the baby is. Which baby? Here? Where? Show me the baby! Well, on Saturday, we did.
Just a quick shout-out to my homebirth midwife here–last Friday was the free day at Boston’s Children’s Museum, and everyone and their midwife (apparently) was indeed there. I ran into her and her boys eating lunch outside in the middle of the day, and it fun to find out that she’s expecting another little one in about a month. Hi, Kelley!