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Breastfeeding is a Learned Behavior: So, Go Forth and Mingle!

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alearnedbehaviour

I was soaking wet, standing in the middle of the beach playground with the top half of my wetsuit pulled down, feeding my two year old while chatting to my friend. We were flapping our jaws about something or other, when my friend paused for a second, looked down and said, “God, I wish someone had just shown me how to get comfortable like that when I was still feeding my baby.”  She had read all the books, had all the lactation consultants help her. Still, something about it, she said, she just could never relax and get comfortable.

Twice today, two of my friends came to me with their breastfeeding woes. Their stories were similar in nature. Not enough support. Lack of knowledge or information. Weren’t getting the kind of support they needed. Had no breastfeeding friends to get advice from. Oi vey! It shouldn’t be that way!

Isn’t breastfeeding a natural instinctual thing?
Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not always instinctual. Especially if a mother is under stress or does not have a clan of other breastfeeding mothers around her. Let’s ask a mother gorilla who had a baby in an Ohio zoo. I heard this story years ago and I found it cited here. Her baby eventually died because the mother gorilla had no idea how to feed her baby. Zookeepers clued into what had happened. So, the next time the mother gorilla became pregnant, the zookeepers allowed the mother gorilla to observe breastfeeding volunteer mothers from the local La Leche League. The mother gorilla was able to breastfeed her next baby successfully!

I mean, I guess there is a chance that if you had your baby on a deserted island, you might get lucky and be able to breastfeed without any help. But, maybe you wouldn’t! Maybe you would need some help! What if your baby had a tongue or lip tie, or what if your nipple is inverted, or what if you didn’t know how often to feed your baby and what if, what if? What if you were just a nervous wreck? I know, most of us don’t live on deserted islands, but sometimes it feels like we do, simply because we live in the confines of our own four walls!

What About Books and Professional Help?
Can you learn a language from reading a book? Can you learn play a musical instrument from reading a book? Hardly. You might get the general idea, but nothing helps you learn like seeing and hearing it from another person whom you trust. You need to see it and hear it. Professional help from certified lactation consultants is amazing… but, nothing beats hanging around other breastfeeding mothers. By watching and learning the way they do it, on an everyday basis, it would become a much more comfortable thing! For example, I had heard about feeding a baby in a sling, but I could never manage to do it, until one day, I SAW other mothers doing it. It instantly made sense.

Time to Reinstate the Sister-hood
From the beginning of time, women with new babies would have been surrounded by their mothers, aunties, cousins and sisters. They would have seen breastfeeding left, right and center for as long as they could remember. They would have seen how if a sister was having trouble, somebody else would have fed her baby for her. It’s not like that these days, so we need to bring it back into context to the world we live in today.

Breastfeeding in public matters
You don’t need to go crazy about breastfeeding in public, but if you are a breastfeeding mother, just remember that you have no idea which future mother (or father) is learning something when they see you breastfeed. The more people who see it, the more comfortable the whole society will be with it. The more people who are comfortable with seeing it means that more people will ask questions, seek advice and be successful on their breastfeeding journey.

Hang out with other breastfeeding mothers
A little support, spending time with other breastfeeding mothers, a few encouraging words, a little question and answer session may be all that you need to keep you going or to get you started. If you don’t know where to find other breastfeeding mothers, check out your local attachment parenting groups, babywearing groups or breastfeeding associations. Usually you can find these groups on Facebook or through websites. In many countries, like the USA, you have La Leche League and in Australia, you have the Australian Breastfeeding Association. A quick google search will point you in the right direction. but, FIND them! Hang out with them. Make them your friends! Use the internet to your great advantage. You may not find your breastfeeding soul sister right down the street, but you might find her on Facebook and you can meet her in person later.

Ask to watch
Find anyone you know who breastfeeds and annoy the hell out of them! Ask them to show you how to do it BEFORE you have a baby. Seriously! Or, if you’ve already had your baby and you’re having difficulties, ask if they can watch you and troubleshoot for you. Ask if you can have them ‘on call‘. Asking advice from professionals is ideal, but sometimes those people are not available, or sometimes you just want a second opinion, or want to hear the voice of a friend. It’s hard to learn something without seeing it done first.

Take the time to learn about breastfeeding. There are certainly books and articles out there that are super-mega useful. But, some can be really confusing and negative. (Avoid any books that say to put your baby on a strict feeding schedule!) One of my old time favorite websites for breastfeeding is Kellymom.com. You can find a very comprehensive list of articles and books there. But, most of all, go out and mingle! Find other breastfeeding mothers and make them your friends! You may not have anything in common other than the fact that you breastfeed, but so what, what a great excuse to make a friend!

(the photo is of my two year old as a newborn, say “awww”)

References
Volk, A. Anthony (2009). Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Physiology. (3)4 305-314

 

 

Get Some ‘Green’ Sleep on a Buckwheat Pillow

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Katesurfspillow2

Have you ever thought about your pillow? Pillows that you buy from most stores are filled with synthetic polyester or polyurethane (unless they are down pillows). They might be advertised ‘anti-allergenic‘ or ‘anti-dust mites‘, which sounds all great, but that usually means that the pillow has been treated with chemicals to make it that way! Synthetic pillows are also treated with boric acid, which makes certain that the pillow passes flame retardant tests. Ewww… I hate the idea that my head (or any other head in my family) would spend upwards of 8 hours a night with the most important part of their body resting on something treated with chemicals known to kill mold, dust mites and prevent flame! Do you see what I’m saying?! There is a natural and affordable alternative! Read the rest of this entry

Five Things the British Nanny Almost Got Right

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Katesurfsbritishnanny

Partial knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

I saw the Huffington Post article ‘5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis-According to a British Nanny‘ floating around my Facebook newsfeed for days. I purposely ignored it, until a friend actually asked me to read it to see what I thought about it! I read it and to my surprise, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. Although, there are HUGE, POTENTIALLY, DANGEROUS GAPS if her advice is taken out of context. Her article was short, easy to read, had something that every parent could relate to BUT, I would like to revise it for her. Read the rest of this entry

Criticism: The Fine Art of Giving and Receiving

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I recently wrote a blog post on why kids need to go outside and not waste so much of their time in front of screens. In my mind, I was writing out my concerns over children needing to connect more with nature and with their bodies. Lots of people liked it, but some people tore it apart left, right and center! To some people, I was writing a piece that was attacking their life style and their way of thinking. I was told I was being judgmental, closed minded, rude and even antagonistic! I was shocked because that was totally not the original intention of my post at all! Looking back, I probably could have written my article differently and then I shared it with the wrong group of people. Oops, my bad! Read the rest of this entry

Dear School Kid, Go Outside and Play. Love, Your Teacher

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Dear School Kid,
Today I said a little prayer for you. As I stepped out of the ocean tonight, after a mid-winter surf, feeling all fresh and alive, I wished with all of my might that you might have a chance to feel how I felt in that moment. My fingers were numb from the cold, but I had awareness in my breath and felt connected to my body. I wondered if many of you have ever felt this way before? It’s ok, I know how it is… I know that you’re stuck, sitting in school for 6 hours a day, and most of the time you don’t want to be there. And then after school, you go home and you sit around some more. I know because you told me. You told me that you sit in front of a screen for at least 5 hours on a school night and at least 9 on the weekend. Where does your mind go when you sit in front of that screen? Do you even notice that your whole consciousness dissolves in that glowing rectangular box in front of your face? I know it must be nice to get to do something that you ‘like‘ instead of being stuck sitting at school… I do understand…. Read the rest of this entry

4 Fun Yet Powerful Ways to Get Toddlers and Preschoolers to Cooperate

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I’m pretty laid back when it comes to letting my kids be free range. But, there are certain times when I just can’t let them play with something… and sometimes I absolutely need to get something out of their hands or I have to get them to do something or we need to leave somewhere. Teeth brushing, getting dressed, leaving the playground, etc. You know the deal… can be a huge struggle. But there are few little tools that I’ve found hugely useful over the years. No bribery. No punishments or rewards. No sticker charts… Just fun! Read the rest of this entry

NIP in America: An Insider’s Perspective From 10,000 Miles Away

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 Katesurfsbreastfeeding

NIP stands for Nursing in Public

A year ago, I would have never posted a picture of myself breastfeeding on the internet. Now, I feel like there’s no better way. Read the rest of this entry

201,987 Reasons Why I Bother

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Margo

(The title of this post is only meant to be *slightly* making fun of the ‘numbers of reasons’ posts that everyone writes these days.)

I sometimes wonder why I bother writing post after post on awareness parenting. I mean, I’M ALREADY a gentle parent. I’m already doing things that I know are good for my children’s emotional and physical growth… The few hours of quiet that I do get around the house, I spend writing, edited, sharing, responding to comments, etc. Today, the number of views on my blog stands right at 201,987, at the moment of writing this sentence. It might sounds exciting to some, but really, some blogs get that many views in a single day! Some days I feel like it’s a waste of time… until… I hear a story… and then I stop. Re-think it. And write another post.

How can I stop writing when I hear about a parent smacking a baby for being ‘naughty‘?! How can I stop writing when I hear about a parent who has ‘trained‘ their child so well not to disturb them at night that even if the child wets the bed, he or she is too scared to wake the parent up and ask for help? How can I stop writing when I hear about parents who actually put locks on their child’s door at night to keep their kid from wondering into the adult bed? How can I stop writing when I hear parents in the grocery stores yelling at their kid to shut the hell up and stop acting like a baby. How can I stop writing when I know there are mothers out there who are looking for the same answers that I have already found?

My little one PEED IN OUR bed last night! Did I scold her? Did I lock her in the other room? No way!!! I picked her up, changed her clothes, held her close, said I was sorry for not getting her to the toilet in time and my husband changed the sheets. Then, we all cuddled and went back to bed.

Society has trained parents to become disconnected from our children’s emotional well being. And, right now, I somehow feel the need to take the responsibility and be one of the many natural parenting warriors out there. It’s a tremendously arduous job that humanity faces in order to bring back basic, loving parenting knowledge that has been lost over the years. The best way I know how to contribute, is by writing these stories. It’s easy to sit back and complain about how bad it can be, so rather than complain (although complaining is fun in small doses), I try to come up with a solution and SHARE those solutions. I think the best way that ANY of us can make a difference is through sharing stories and offering honest and evidence based advice.

Every parent could write a book and if you don’t have time to write a book, someone else (like me) will write books, articles and posts on something you feel strongly about. I’m not going to stop writing because I know that someone, somewhere out there is reading this stuff and maybe, just *maybe* it’s making a difference. Maybe, the next time a parent thinks about trying cry it out, they’ll find one of my blog posts and decide against it. Or, maybe next time one of your friends thinks that smacking is a good idea, they’ll remember an article or story that you shared and decide against it. Maybe next time a desperate mother with a newborn needs to find a way to carry her baby, they’ll find one of my babywearing tutorials.

We all do parenting different. We all do LIFE different. It’s ok, actually, it’s great to have diversity and something to talk about. But, no matter how different you think we all are, we’re really much of the same. We should never stop sharing our stories. We can never think that we should always just ‘mind our own business‘. Human beings are not meant to live in isolation, we need other people’s brains to bounce ideas off of. The way we connect and communicate with people these days is mostly through the internet or through short snippets of daily life, at work, at playgroup, at the park, etc.

I know why I bother… when I see how much love, empathy and awareness my own kids are gaining each and every day, then I know it’s all worth it. When I see the kids at our playgroup, whose parents follow similar parenting philosophies as mine, and how happy and sincere and CONNECTED everyone is, then I know it’s all worth it. It’s not ‘what we do‘ it’s ‘how we do it‘. The way we treat our children has a direct impact on the world and our future. So, treat the kids well. Share your stories, don’t be shy! You never know who is listening, at least there have been 201,987 episodes of listening here so far!

 

Totally Herbacious Vegan Soup

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vegan soup

(I double dog dare you to make this without singing ‘Are You Going to Scarborough Fair’)

It’s winter in Australia and probably one of the coldest driest weeks we’ve had in a long time. My skin is all dry and the heels of my feet are cracked.  I knew that I needed something quick, warm and wet for dinner last night and I didn’t feel like making a mess with a million preparation pots. I also have quite a good herb garden on my balcony (it’s doesn’t get *that* cold in this part of Australia that you can’t grow a few herbs). It was the end of the week, so I wanted to use up the rest of my veggies, but you can use any veggies you want! Read the rest of this entry

Ten Non-Reasons Why Your Baby is Crying

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 Babycrying

Babies cry. You don’t have to feel bad about it. Either they’re trying to tell you something (they’re hungry, scared, etc.) or they’re frustrated or in pain.  We should always do the best we can to respond to a crying baby’s needs. Yes, sometimes it’s overwhelming and yes sometimes you need to put a crying baby down for a moment. Yes, we live in a silly society where parents live isolated and don’t have enough help. Sometimes, you pick up a baby and they just keep crying. Read the rest of this entry