Milwaukee Ads on Co-Sleeping: The Blood Boils

posted by Mama Hope | November 16th, 2011 in Attachment Parenting

I had to come out of the woodwork on this one: the Milwaukee ad campaign to prevent co-sleeping.

Troubled that their rate of infant mortality is excessively high, the City of Milwaukee has come out with an ad campaign comparing co-sleeping with an infant to, essentially, butchering your child with a knife.

What recent college graduate who has never breast fed or cared for a child came up with this one?

Complete Lack of Informed Knowledge of Co-Sleeping

I think the thing that is most troubling about this ad is the utter lack of consideration or knowledge about co-sleeping, which in fact has existed in our species for milennia. It has been shown that the majority of mothers either openly or privately admit to co-sleeping at least on a periodic basis. Thus this ad is not targeted to a small fringe group of ignorant un-informed mothers, but instead to the vast majority of parents in the world, who are taking part in an act that:

  • Is a natural response to nurturing.
  • Is predominant in most areas of the world, including countries with lower infant death rates than the U.S.
  • Has been proven to have benefits to infant safety, particularly in relation to the suspected cause of SIDS in developed nations.

Research on the scientific benefits of co-sleeping is available on Ask Dr. Sears.

Loss of an Opportunity to Teach about Safe Co-Sleeping

The fact of the matter is this: if co-sleeping was universally unsafe, we would have become extinct as a species many, many years ago.

But the particular shame of this ad campaign is this: there are aspects of co-sleeping that parents should educated about, and this campaign misses that mark entirely.

What should be advocated is *safe* co-sleeping practices, such as:

  1. Choosing not to co-sleep when under the influence (a primary cause of the small number of deaths that have occurred),
  2. Not co-sleeping on *couches*, and
  3. Not co-sleeping if you or your husband are obese.
  4. Choosing a firmer bed and avoiding feather beds and foam bed liners.
  5. Ensuring that any space between the mattress and head board or foot board are filled, for example, with rolled towels or another firm support.
  6. Ensuring that the mother, preferably breastfeeding, is near the child and alert to its breath and movements. Studies have shown that sleeping, breastfeeding mothers often awake to even the slightest trouble of their infant, lowering risk of SIDS.

For more on safe co-sleeping, see the book Good Nights, by Jay Gordon.

You can see parallels here with general health risks that we all face. For example, with pregnancy: if you are alcoholic, obese, or diabetic you carry certain risks with your pregnancy that need to be addressed. And those same risks can carry over beyond your pregnancy and into your child-rearing as well.

Equating co-sleeping to “butchering” your child because it is not safe for people struggling with addiction or obesity?

This is like saying that the end result of human pregnancy is fetal alcohol syndrome, therefore humans should not become pregnant.

Respect for Parents, Respect for Babies

The unfortunate consequence of Milwaukee’s campaign is that it takes power away from parents: to make their own decisions, to act in line with nature, and to act safely.

Instead, the campaign functions as an insult — an insult to parents who co-sleep and an insult to the intelligence of those who wish to fully understand the issue and become truly educated and informed. Like many insults it is carried about from a position of ignorance. It acts from ignorance, and it spreads ignorance.

We should shun ignorance but also look upon it with compassion. Am I sorry that the people of Milwaukee suffer from a high infant mortality rate? Yes. Do I feel this scourge should be faced head on with research and education? Yes.

Does this excuse the City from becoming fully educated on this issue before issuing a ridiculously one-sided, hurtful, inconsiderate, and uninformed campaign? No. My hope is that the City will use the attention they are getting to find a place of humility, become more informed, and work to educate from a position of increased power.

When we speak with gusto and verve, we have a responsibility to consider the consequences more fully and to fully educate ourselves as to our position.

What do you think? Should Milwaukee issue an apology? Or are they acting rightly for the benefit of the people of Milwaukee?

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PaperBackSwap.com - free books when you swap, trade, or exchange your used books

Are you an attachment parent who works, struggling to keep those bonds and help your kids transition to independence gracefully?

Do you wonder if your child’s anxiousness or clingy-ness may stem from something you’ve done?

One year ago I had to take the leap from being a part-time WAHM to a mostly full time working mom. I’m back now! But it was hard — I had to take a break from blogging here at hdb and I still worry about the aftershocks… Here’s the gripping tale:

As things got better and better for this blog in terms of traffic, I noticed that my D-man, then aged 1, was getting a bit more clingy. We had moved and that was unsettling for him, of course, but the truth was I was also working more and more. My husband was still finishing up a technical certificate at the local college and we anticipated that his income would enter the picture soon, and before we knew it we found out a new little joy was coming into our lives, so the income part of the equation popped up a notch in the “this is crucial” category.

Then we were forced to face up to the brutal truth:

There were no jobs in our area (especially at this time) in the field hubby was planning to enter. After a bit of investigation, we found that some low pay scale work could possibly surface through a temp agency that would eventually lead to salaried employment with benefits — but he’d have to work his way up the latter by working second shift and possibly some unpaid weekends. Now I’m not saying that a lot of families don’t have to face that situation but we did a little math and came to the conclusion:

As much as we know how much I loved mothering and being part-time WAHM, my current online gig was prepared to give me full time work at easily twice what hubby could make in town.

So we made plans for me to start work full time after our new daughter was born.

To make sure I would still have enough time for the kiddo’s, I had to let go of the blog. Of course, as you know, I kept it online to keep the information out there, but I had to stop writing all those juicy informative, well-researched posts and just focus on making moola.

The good news is that the new career is going well and I’m actually branching out on my own to start a new business focusing on marketing for green businesses and Mompreneurs. It’s frightening but exciting!

Help! SAHM to WAHM to Working Mom Is Hard To Do!

The bad news is that I’m now shouldering lingering Mommy Guilt from the impact the whole process had on D. He’s now 3 years old and went through some rough times when I had both a new baby and a heavy work schedule come into his life at the same time. We were still co-sleeping and in fact I was still nursing when we made the transition over a year ago now. But as an attachment parented child I do think it shocked his system a bit.

Fortunately, my husband was able to take the role of Stay-At-Home-Dad, and we kept many other routines the same for him — part-time days at his nursery school, afternoons with my parents a couple days a week. But despite my enthusiasm for the new business, and for getting back into part-time blogging again now that things have settled into a routine for us, I’m still a bit cautious about D.

Share Your Tips for Working Moms?

If you’re an old follower of the blog or a new subscriber who’s found me online lately, please share your thoughts and your well wishes with me!

Have you found ways to keep the important routines going despite your need to work? Have you learned to find joy in the time you have, even despite the pangs of guilt when you head out the door?

Help me mamas! I’m so glad to be back online and getting social again — how do we take care of ourselves while nurturing our children’s voracious need for our time?

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How Serious is H1N1? Deaths and Transmission Rate Uncovered

posted by Mama Hope | October 28th, 2009 in Vaccines

How Deadly is Swine Flu? In a conversation with a family member recently, I was told, “There have been 1000 swine flu deaths and 5000 cases so far. That’s a 20% death rate. That’s serious. I’m afraid for the first time.” If this was true, it would be serious! But is it?

There’s so much confusion and fear and misinformation circulating lately about swine flu, I felt I needed to do some research. As my readers know I am known for my “no holds barred” research! This is what I found, and it’s a bit shocking!

H1N1 Swine Flue infection rate

Looking for accurate information on H1N1 deaths and transmission? Read below for answers:

Be sure to read to the end for important information about swine flu, scary thoughts on H1N1 vaccines, and how to boost your immune system to prevent swine flu!

Update: Lack of Testing Inflates Swine Flu Cases

CBS reports:

In late July, the CDC abruptly advised states to stop testing for H1N1 flu, and stopped counting individual cases. The rationale given for the CDC guidance to forego testing and tracking individual cases was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there’s an epidemic?

Some public health officials privately disagreed with the decision to stop testing and counting, telling CBS News that continued tracking of this new and possibly changing virus was important because H1N1 has a different epidemiology, affects younger people more than seasonal flu and has been shown to have a higher case fatality rate than other flu virus strains.

CBS News learned that the decision to stop counting H1N1 flu cases was made so hastily that states weren’t given the opportunity to provide input….

With most cases diagnosed solely on symptoms and risk factors, the H1N1 flu epidemic may seem worse than it is. For example, on Sept. 22, this alarming headline came from Georgetown University in Washington D.C.: ‘H1N1 Flu Infects Over 250 Georgetown Students.’

H1N1 flu can be deadly and an outbreak of 250 students would be an especially troubling cluster. However, the number of sick students came not from lab-confirmed tests but from “estimates” made by counting ‘students who went to the Student Health Center with flu symptoms, students who called the H1N1 hotline or the Health Center’s doctor-on-call, and students who went to the hospital’s emergency room.’

Without lab testing, it’s impossible to know how many of the students actually had H1N1 flu. But the statistical trend indicates it was likely much fewer than 250…

According to the report, prior to the CDC officially instructing states to stop testing, about 83-97% of the suspected H1N1 cases actually tested negative for H1N1.

In two states, Alaska and California, 86-93% of those tested were actually negative for any type of influenza, caused most likely viral agents other than influenza type A & B.

Despite these figures, now *all* “suspected cases” are assumed to be H1N1. Statistically, this would mean that the current estimated number of H1N1 cases presented to the public is inflated by about 20 to 30 times.

[Edit: The CDC defines "influenza-type illness" or ILI as "fever (temperature of 100°F [37.8°C] or greater) and a cough and/or a sore throat in the absence of a KNOWN cause other than influenza”.]

Despite H1N1 now being diagnosed on flu-like symptoms and risk factors alone, in this video the CDC is quoted as saying that statistically only about 20% of those with “flu-like symptoms” actually have influenza at all.

CDC Track Record of Withholding and Falsifying Information

Why does the CDC continue to assert definitively that most cases of flue are H1N1 when laboratory testing is not being done? Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a very interesting and entertaining article about a secret meeting between the CDC and vaccine manufacturers.

It reveals some background information on how the CDC handles public information, the kind of relationship they have with pharmaceutical companies, and their ability to influence the supposedly objective results of scientific study:

Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session — only private invitations to fifty-two attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly “embargoed.” There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left… (Rolling Stone)

H1N1 Cases: How Many Have Been Infected with Swine Flu?

It seems that very few of the “confirmed cases of H1N1 deaths” are actually laboratory confirmed H1N1 cases at all, as no testing has been done since July to sort out the actual H1N1 cases from the 83-97% which are most likely not H1N1. But the CDC is reporting “many millions” of H1N1 cases, 20,000 hospitalizations and 1,000 deaths in America. Again, there has been no actual testing to confirm H1N1 since July, except in California which has elected to test for H1N1 in hospital cases, despite the CDC instructing against it.

[Edit: I did some additional research and learned that a small percentage of cases in hospitals are still being tested with assistance from the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the CDC itself states that they are *not* requesting data on individual H1N1 cases, hospitalizations or deaths, official as of August. I found the following buried in their website:

The new definitions allow states to report to CDC hospitalizations and deaths (either confirmed OR probable) resulting from all types of influenza, not just those from 2009 H1N1 flu. This is a broader set of data than states were previously reporting as it now includes 1) laboratory-confirmed influenza for all types of influenza, and 2) pneumonia and influenza cases identified from hospital records, most of which will not be laboratory confirmed.

Due to CDC’s new case definitions, there will be no definitive way to differentiate between hospitalizations and deaths due to seasonal influenza versus those due to 2009 H1N1 influenza from aggregate reporting. And some deaths that are not due to influenza specifically will be included.

Why is this information not made more accessible to the public? Why are H1N1 deaths being reported without clear disclaimers as to accuracy?]

Up to July 15, California was tracking and lab testing both outpatient and hospitalized cases of H1N1. At that time California statistics of all laboratory confirmed cases of H1N1 showed 2655 laboratory confirmed cases and 441 hospitalizations. California now (October 17) reports 3556 hospitalizations and 233 deaths. California represents about 12% of the U.S. population, and California’s hospitalization figure is also near 12% of the CDC’s national hospitalization figure.

Assuming the country’s rate of hospitalization and infection is similar to California, one could very roughly estimate U.S. cases of H1N1 so far at about one hundred and seventy thousand.

What is the Rate of Deaths (CFR) from H1N1 Swine Flu?

As of 15 June 2009, the World Health Organization reported 35, 928 worldwide cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, including 163 deaths (0.45%). As of July, European statistics showed 15,532 people afflicted with H1N1 and 29 deaths, or about .2 % (.0018). Estimates of the case fatality ratio based on the Mexican outbreak resembled the more recent WHO estimate: .4% death rate, with a margin of error of .3% to 1.8%.

  • So, during the summer — when laboratory testing was still being done — the most commonly estimated rate of death of H1N1 was .4%. Not 4% just .4% — four tenths of one percent, or a little less than one half a percent. At a .4% death rate, 1 out of every 250 infected may die.
  • A typical influenza outbreak has a .25% death rate, or 1 in 400.
  • Bird flu may have a rate of death as high as 70%, or 70 in 100.

A writer on Answers.com explains influenza and death rates:

For most forms of Influenza with no pre-existing health problems, the mortality rate is less than a quarter of a percent, or about 1 in 400. Cause of death is mostly due to respiratory failure, usually associated with secondary infections. (pneumonia etc..) Patients with compromised immune systems, the very young and very old, are much more susceptible. Some (rare) forms of influenza have much elevated mortality rates. Asian bird flu (H5N1) may have a mortality as high as 70%. The 2009 influenza A (H1N1) outbreak is of normal virulence at present, but its similarity in structure and origin to the 1918 pandemic flu has raised worldwide concern.

Recently however, some experts rate the H1N1 mortality rate even lower, as Harvard scientist Dr. Marc Lipsitch, who estimates the death rate of swine flue as comparable to that of any normal seasonal flu:

Barring any changes in the virus, I think we can say we are in a category 1 pandemic. This has not become clear until fairly recently.”

The Pandemic Severity Index set by the U.S. government has five categories of pandemic, with a category 1 being comparable to a seasonal flu epidemic. Seasonal flu has a death rate of less than 0.1 percent. (MSNBC)

It seems that the main reason H1N1 is troubling is not due to a high death rate, but actually due to the way it affects age groups differently. In H1N1, similar to the 1918 flu epidemic, death rates appear to peak not only in the under 4 and over 65 age ranges, but also in the 15 to 35 age ranges. This phenomenon can be seen in the curve of the 1918 flu death rates:

death rate H1N1 swine flu similar 1918 flu

In this “W shaped” curve, kids ages 1 to 15 and adults ages 35 to 65 are at the lowest risk of death.

But even these figures are based on a lot of statistical washing of data. Vincent Racaniello Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology at Columbia University Medical Center writes:

Determining how many people die from influenza is a tricky business. The main problem is that not every influenza virus infection is confirmed by laboratory testing… In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US does not know exactly how many people die from flu each year. The number has to be estimated using statistical procedures.

How Deadly is Swine Flu?

In late July, Finland, the third healthiest country in the world according to Forbes magazine, did make an announcement regarding H1N1 flu — it removed H1N1 from a list of dangerous illnesses. Why? Because “the majority of sufferers are expected to recover without any medical or hospital care”.

Does this mean that in Finland swine flu is less serious because people are healthier?

Or that in Finland, where they know a thing or two about health, they don’t think swine flu is serious? You decide.

Should I Get the Swine Flu Shot?

Of course, all this begs the question of whether or not to vaccinate yourself or your kids.

We must all make this decision based on our level of health and how well we protect our immune system with:

  • Fatty fish and fish oils (such as salmon, kipper and sardines)
  • Vegetables and Vitamin C
  • Sunshine and Vitamin D
  • Co-factor minerals such as zinc and magnesium found in whole grains, nuts and leafy greens.

And of course, the unknown factor for many - how susceptible are you and your family to immune disorders caused by vaccines?

Fear is a powerful motivator. Hitler used it successfully, and so did IBM in 1970 with its invention of the FUD marketing strategy: Fear plus Uncertainty plus Doubt. FUD is now one of the most successful and commonly applied strategies around. You think maybe the media and the CDC are using it nowadays? (No I’m not saying all these guys are like Hitler! Just that they are using the same strategy!)

If you’re motivated by fear, you’ll have to make the decision to either:

  • Strengthen your immune system for swine flu protection, or
  • Get vaccinated.

If you’re going to be motivated by fear, though, get all the information and know all the things to be afraid of! How about this one?

Beautiful Cheerleader Develops Dystonia After Receiving Vaccine (Seasonal Flu Shot) - Inside Edition News

Makers Of Vaccine Refuse To Take H1N1 - RT News
“Even scientists who helped develop the vaccine for small pox are saying that they’re not going to take the [H1N1] vaccine and are urging their friends and family not to take this vaccine either.”

The CDC has opted to sacrifice the few, rare people who will be paralyzed or worse by autoimmune disorders triggered by vaccination.

We all must decide on which side of the wave of risks of life we want to ride - the risks caused by the rule of nature, where the strongest survive, or the risks caused by the rule of man, where we all serve as guinea pigs to science’s ongoing education on what works and what does not.

Love and Health,

Mama Hope

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Open the Door, Close the Door

posted by Mama Hope | April 27th, 2009 in Baby Del

We’ve moved (into our new apartment, that is)!

I thought I would post this video of Baby D from last month as a bit of a metaphorical marker. At this point, we close the door on our old life, and open the door on a new one.

Bye bye to our old home! Bye bye to our old familial tribe. Hello to a home that we can make for ourselves. The food is already grittier (we had zucchini potato soup with traditional kasha for dinner last night!), but we miss Nonna and Dave-a (Little D’s name for Grandpa Dave). We wake up almost *three* hours earlier now that our bed is surrounded by seven foot high windows. We struggle to get everything into its place, and I begin to worry how we can afford our rent, but my husband reminds me not to take the struggle too seriously.

This is only today’s struggle. Tomorrow, on to something different. We simply live it.

Thank you to all who sent support to us in our move. It’s been overwhelmingly exhausting but surprisingly smooth. I’ll be back now to my normal posting schedule, assuming all continues to go well. Thanks for your patience! Coming soon: pictures of the new digs, from squalor to blissfulnessness!

Love Love,

Mama Hope

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We’re moving!

posted by Mama Hope | April 4th, 2009 in Daily Meanderings

This here be my official news that we are moving! I’ve delayed writing anything about it so far, as I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe something is going to happen until it actually does! But we’re ever so close as we’ve signed our lease and are waiting for our new landlord to complete our “punch list” on a few repairs. Then we move in!

The apartment we’re moving to is in a completely gutted and renovated old warehouse. It’s 1200 sq. ft. for our family of four, with exposed brick, vaulted wood beam ceilings, and 8 foot tall arched windows facing north and east. We’re actually quite fortunate as to have just barely qualified there, as it is a privately-owned subsidized low income apartment, in a program designed to help families save money toward buying their first home.

Goodbye to the Old

I haven’t written much about our personal living situation here at hdb, and I suppose that reveals me to be a somewhat private person, despite my openness about depression. The main reason I’ve not written about our personal space is that our personal space at the moment is not actually “ours”.

For the last two years, since relocating here from New York, we have been living in my parents’ home. It has allowed us to save money and has been a godsend for Little D. He truly is a member of a little tribe among us. We all chip in toward his care and he literally wanders about the house visiting us each in turn, showing us his little prizes or doing his “baby work” as we call it, imitating some or other behavior. One minute he’ll be “folding” clothes like his mom (read: taking them out of his droor and dragging them all over the house), the next he’ll be “potting plants” like his Nonna — scooping handfuls of dirt from the house plants into the dog dish!

Just writing this does make me a little teary-eyed. Time flies and even though the limitations of our arrangement have been clear — the lack of personal space, the difficulties in coping with our mismatched lifestyle preferences — this home has become our home. We were blessed and fortunate that my parents have been so generous with their space, and it will be sad to leave. But we do have great hopes for our move! Hubby and I are excited to have more quietude and privacy, and the opportunity to truly make a home for ourselves again.

Hello to the New

One of my hopes is that this move will return me as close as is possible to something resembling my old far away NYC lifestyle. In order to achieve that, I’ll have to:

  1. Walk to buy my groceries,
  2. Laze around in cafe’s reading books when I feel like it,
  3. Shop at farmer’s markets & be a member of a CSA, and
  4. Have fairly regular dinner parties and gatherings for drinks at adult-style locales wherein I may walk home satisfactorily altered.

Well, hey, I already got the CSA thing down, with this move I think I can pick up a few more! We’ll be walking distance from the library, the farmer’s market, a health food store and cafe, and our favorite Mexican restaurant!

I am also very excited to begin entertaining again now that we are finally getting out of the p’s. My ambitious plan is to try my hand at throwing some grown up style playdates for cards (not poker, just cards, no gambling!) and geeky board games. We are big fans of Euro games, and hubby is a certifiable board game geek. Many a night lately I find myself rounding up my 13 year-old son or my hubby to play another round of Stone Age (aff), hubby’s most recent birthday present, when I should be packing or posting! Hubby says Stone Age recently ousted Settlers of Catan (aff) as the favorite “gateway game” for introducing new folks to the joy that is the Euro game. Who wouldn’t want to sit around with cute, colorful wooden chips vying for points in an economically-oriented mind trip that could only be invented by a German sociologist?

Actually I just found out that another local mommie also plays Catan, so maybe I can enlist her help in recruiting more folks to the cause. Wish me luck!

Can you tell I’m excited?!

Penny for Your Tips

Have any advice on simplification and de-cluttering? Know how to make a move go smoothly? I can use your tips!

Ultimately, this last week has been quite a challenge, so I’ll need some luck to get through this. Staying on top of homeschool, plus packing, plus the baby, plus the blog and some hopeful work opportunities is trying my ability to stay on top of things. But life is about compromise, and about the ebb and flow of challenge and triumph, right? Or is that just the drama in my head? I’m reminded of one of my first blog posts ever, about preparing for baby’s arrival, written when I was in a similar whirlwind while planning our waterbirth!

Here we go again, big changes never stop coming! Well wishes are welcome and appreciated. And please share with me your de-cluttering, organization and simple living techniques! My big plan is to move over only the regularly used stuff to the new place, while our old room is available as a staging area for parting with things in a whirl of ebaying, craigslist and garage sale madness. I’ll need all the will power I can get to help me part with the unnecessary while making a satisfactory little solace of simple living in the new place.


With gratitude for your thoughts,

Mama Hope

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It’s a great time for outdoor activities with kids, so I wanted to give a quick recommendation for a great blog on kids’ activities crafting with younger children: GreenMamma.org.

If you follow my commenters at all you may have noticed that Jessica, the Green Mamma herself, has been a regular here at hdb since early on. Jessica is a great writer with a firm dedication toward ethics that of course I respect deeply as an ethical mama myself. Some of her articles have also been published on API Speaks.

Recently, she’s been chronicling her outdoor exploits with her daughter Annabelle  — from walks to gardening to interactions with nature. I believe Annabelle is about 4 years old (Jessica?) and a great age for all sorts of creativity. Jessica’s blog is packed with lots of gorgeous photos and, as I mentioned, plentiful ideas for kids’ crafts!

Crafts for Indoor and Out

Here are a some of her outdoor activities posts I’ve noted with admiration lately:

And some older posts with adorable indoor craft projects:

Giving Children an Education via Outdoor Activities

One of the reasons I wanted to give a shout out to Green Mamma is that I truly wish I had the opportunity to give my first son, now 13, more of the kind of outdoor education and love of nature that Jessica is giving Annabelle.

We moved to New York when he was only two, and though we certainly were able to give him plenty of stimulation via memberships to the science museum and the array of local zoo’s (three!) via our Wildlife Conservation Society membership, I never truly embraced the outdoors enough to give him the opportunity to explore and adventure in the way that I fondly remember from my own youth.

Now that Baby D is actually “Toddler D”, he’s already asserting his love of the outdoors, as documented in my last video post on Baby D’s toddler exploits. Hopefully with the support of my mom, the master gardener, my dad, who proclaims that work outdoors is a form of therapy, and my hubby, ever on the move, I’ll be more apt to continue to take the initiative to get out and about with D!

When I was younger, and even now, simple walks in the woods provided plenty of awe at nature’s wonders, sometimes with a guidebook to flowers and plants, but sometimes just with my mother’s knowledge. Occasionally now, too, I read stories of those whose childhood neighborhood play involved such creative endeavors as mudpies and childrens’ gardens. It seems so vital that this shared legacy of play is not lost.

Perhaps that’s why the following books have found themselves on my Amazon and Paperback Swap wish lists, ready to inspire me to creativity. I’m curious to get a peek into the current and past ideas others have had for getting kids off the screen, out of the house, and into the ultimate interactive environment!

I Love Dirt! (aff)

I think what drew me to this book originally was my reading of the recent New York Times article “Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You,” about the value of dirt in developing a child’s immune system. Given our family attitude toward vaccinations, we are, of course, always thirsty for information on developing a strong immune system naturally!

The Times article quotes Mary Ruebush, PhD:

“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, Why Dirt Is Good (aff). “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

I’ve actually had one woman respond here on hdb to my articles on cold and flu treatment with suggestions on an educational program that teaches kids “germ management” via handwashing, etc. Though I never looked into the program, I do wonder what Dr. Ruebush, an immunologist would have to say about that!

Last Child in the Woods (aff)

This book is pretty ubiquitous and I seem to stumble upon mentions of it all over the place. I took a look again at the Amazon entry and found a rather shocking story in a review that makes a great contrast to the new scientific information on the value of dirt:

My “wake up call” came when my friend from the city brought her toddler to my home and the little girl cried in terror when her mother tried to get her to put her bare feet on the lawn, a lawn that was free of anything dangerous. We don’t have a dog so there weren’t even any “droppings” to worry about.

A baby who was scared to touch ground? Her mother admitted that her offspring had never felt grass because her mother feared it might be too full of “germs”. I urged her to at least let her daughter smell a handful of freshly picked clover but she looked at me as though I were crazy…

Most of all, this book might help both parents and children realize that nature can be as mysterious, powerful and awesome as any video game or television show (I’d say even MORE so). If our children, our future generations, are going to learn to care about the environment and preserving the wonders that are out there, it is up to parents, teachers and other role models in their lives to foster that appreciation…and, hopefully, that passion…early on. (K. Corn, Top 50 Reviewer on Amazon)

Richard Louv, author of Last Child In the Woods, (aff) won the Audubon Medal award from the National Audubon Society as well as the Paul K. Petzoldt Award from the Wilderness Education Association.

According to the Audubon Society:

Louv lists the human costs of alienation from nature as including attention disorders, depression and obesity. He reveals that environmental education and direct experiences in nature have dramatic positive effects on the physical and emotional health of children, significantly improving test scores and grade point averages, and boosting skills in problem solving, critical thinking and decision making.

Speaking of societies and associations…

Non-Profit Nature-Based Curriculum for Kids

nature education club
Nature Explore Club, National Arbor Day Foundation

My mother is a member of the National Arbor Day Foundation, and she actually subscribed to a great little outdoor curriculum for us for awhile. Remember that period I mentioned when I didn’t do enough to get my eldest involved in the outdoors? Mmm, hmmm. Well, I’ve saved up all these envelopes that were sent to us monthly or so that detail little nature hunt adventures and whatnot. I think they’ll be particularly fabulous if we do find ourselves homeschooling later on with D!

Wilderness Steward Program and Wilderness Education Workshops, Wilderness Education Association

These on-site courses are geared toward older kids and adults. If you have an older child, perhaps you can so inspire them! Mine seems to be more interested in Warcraft Game Modding at the moment!

Well, well! My brief mention of Green Mamma seems to have turned into a rather thorough take on nature education and outdoor activities! If you have a young child that loves crafts and gardening like Jessica’s Annabelle, definitely consider subscribing to Green Mamma for ongoing inspiration. But no matter the age, hopefully you’ll find something to inspire you and your child in the spring and summer that awaits us!


Mama Hope

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New Videos! Baby Del Inside and Outside

posted by Mama Hope | March 25th, 2009 in Baby Del

Little D is getting to be quite the character! He started walking at 10 months and is quite accustomed to adventuring about. He’s now 15 months old! I captured these two videos of his wandering spirit and his absolute enthusiasm. It seems that he’s inherited both his mother’s spunk and sense of humor and his father’s appetite for perpetual motion. Plus he’s just a real charmer, if I do say so myself!

Baby D Roams the House

In this video Baby D clearly has something to tell us about, though I’m not sure what it is. He’s determined to parade up and down the hallway with his excited proclamation! I join in a bit just to give him some company! You’ll also have the pleasure of witnessing a rather large box filled with thrift store wool sweaters that my mother has been converting into soakers and baby legs, as well as a quite typical overflowing bounty of library books strewn about. Day, day!

Spring Time Play for Baby D

Here you’ll hear the sweet sounds of spring birds and Nonna Janice’s (grandma) distant voice reflecting upon the delights of spring — rocks, pinecones, Little D’s discoveries. Also featured is our favorite loafer and handy dandy mammalian vacuum cleaner, Baxter, the half beagle half german shepard! Keep an eye out for the wheel barrow, which Little D refers to fondly as his “car”.

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Responding to The Case Against Breastfeeding

posted by Mama Hope | March 21st, 2009 in Attachment Parenting

If you haven’t heard the buzz lately, much debate and wagging of fingers is a brewing amongst mom bloggers about Hannah Rosin’s Atlantic piece “The Case Against Breastfeeding.” I have to admit I haven’t yet read the piece, and as I owe the babe and the fam (and myself) a bit more quality moments

Not to mention the fact that I’ve been entrenched in enough controversy and debate in the last couple of weeks between my post “Is It Wrong to Openly Support Breastfeeding” and my call for bloggers to speak up about affiliate marketing ethics. Have you answered my anonymous poll yet on your thoughts on online advertising? You can do so here!

So the long and short is I probably won’t get the time to delve deeply into Rosin’s self-made controversy for the next few days. However, I didn’t want to leave any of my readers in the dark about such a thrilling occurrence, so I thought I’d post a few relevant links on the issue.

  • Rosin’s original anti-breastfeeding article, much discussed, is here.
  • An excellent response defending breastfeeding regarding the feminist argument is on  PhD In Parenting.
  • It seems a highlight of Rosin’s argument centers on the idea that breastfeeding unnecessarily subjects women to taking on an unfair share of parental duties. Many breastfeeding women would contest that fact, I believe, and I am one of them. I said as much in my piece on sharing responsibilities in a happy marriage. That piece also has some excellent comments by a Todd Tyrtle, a daddy blogger I respect who, like my husband, takes on a healthy and vital role in his family dynamic.
  • The outcry is so deep over Rosin’s piece that even respected medical associations are speaking out. The Feminist Breeder has chronicled them well, and includes her response regarding the damage the Rosin piece does to the advancements in health that are possible when breastfeeding rates are on the rise.
  • You can also find a chronicle of the blog responses to the Atlantic piece on PhD In Parenting.

That’s right, major medical associations are actually speaking out about Rosin’s “Case Against Breastfeeding”. In case you don’t have a moment to follow those links, I’ll quote some highlights here for you:

From the American Academy of Pediatrics, quoted on The Feminist Breeder:

The evidence for the value of breastfeeding is scientific, it is strong, and it is continually being reaffirmed by new research work. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to make an informed decision about feeding their infants based on scientifically established information from credible resources.

From the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine:

Clinical and basic science research supports the role of breastfeeding in the development of a baby’s immune system and the presence of maternal antibodies protect infants against infection. Artificial feeding is also associated with increased risk of common disorders of early childhood such as ear infections, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems, and respiratory tract infections. Studies have also linked artificial feeding to increased risk for obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis. Mothers benefit as well, and a history of breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and of breast and ovarian cancer.

The moral of the story? Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but it’s supported by the major medical associations as well as millions of happy breastfeeding mothers around the world. Don’t let one voice, anxiously seeking a popularized notoriety, convince you otherwise.


Mama Hope

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Rita Arens of BlogHer posted recently on a topic that’s been filling quite a bit of my mindspace of late — that of ethical marketing and word-of-mouth advertising on blogs. And when I heard recently that the FTC was also taking up the topic with a proposal to expand endorsement fraud regulations to include blogs, I was honestly relieved that somebody was talking about it!*

To Monetize or Not to Monetize: That’s Just the First Question

The idea of monetization has always been a touchy one for me, on the one hand, most of us know the rather insidious nature of most advertising and the manner that it serves not only to inform, but sometimes to alter our own deep perceptions of who we are and who we need to be. When marketing is used to this end, it can quickly become a sickness of our culture, as I’ve hinted at in my posts on green consumerism and on frugality and simple living.

On the other hand, I know that I spend countless hours doing thorough research to support the information I provide to my readers and the online community at large, seeking background information on things like Orajel safety that don’t become clear with one quick google search. Heck, sure, I’d like to be reimbursed for my time by those that find my writing valuable! Logically speaking, that reimbursement would come from the readers themselves, but as we know the pay per use model just didn’t make it online.

This leaves three options for writing professionally online: get a job (from somebody who probably posts advertising), post advertising yourself, or put up a donate button and wish for the best. Those options may not be mutually exclusive or black and white, but the core financial funding for online content remains the same: advertising.

The Crucial Question of Transparency

But it’s not the issue of whether to monetize that drives Rita Arens’ questioning, it’s the question of how — or more precisely how not to monetize. With technologies on the net driving rapid changes in advertising norms, thousands of bloggers and advertisers adopt new methodologies before the general public can even comprehend the platform upon which they reside.

Journalistic integrity in the print world, though it may seem like ancient history to us today, has maintained clear ethical standards that protect us as readers and citizens from misleading advertising messages. Rita Arens holds that integrity up as a yardstick:

Magazines and newspapers that do product reviews comply with journalistic standards, which require full disclosure and transparency about the reviews, the relationship of the parent company of the periodical with the parent company of the product being reviewed, etc. A journalist who’s not completely transparent is a journalist who will not be working long.

She points out that Mommybloggers are valuable and they are trusted. Therefore, she concludes, if they want to retain that value they must maintain the same journalistic standards: clearly indicating all paid reviews, as well as those compensated with products or gift certificates:

Just say you’re doing a review, say you received money to attend the amusement park — say you didn’t pay your own money for whatever you’re talking about, so that other people can decide for themselves whether they want to spend theirs.

Here Comes the Law

I’ve been following this topic casually for a while now as I make my own decisions regarding hdb. In my comment on Rita’s post on BlogHer, I pointed out some of the issues that extend beyond sponsored posts into affiliate partnerships (kind of like bloggy salespeople).

As I discuss below, the interest in maintaining marketing secrecy on some blogs is so strong that they actually employ cloaking techniques to hide their affiliate links. Such cloaking services are marketed to bloggers as a way to keep their readers from “stealing” their commissions! This is not an idea I will ever subscribe to here at hippie dippie bébé.

What’s fascinating too, as I point out below, is that FTC regulations are not far behind the industry. Proposed guidelines have been drafted that support holding bloggers and their advertisers legally accountable when transparency is not maintained:

My concern has always been a) the general public is not as aware as bloggers and marketers are of the mechanisms by which a web publisher can receive compensation b) the whole concept of not only journalistic integrity but also interpersonal integrity is marred when transparency is not cultivated.

You make mention directly of “pay for post” above, but I also have concerns about affiliate marketing. Affiliate bloggers who include contextual links in their posts have even more incentive to gush about their products than pay for post-ers. Because they are paid only on commission, the money is not yet in the bag for them. Yet, they do not fall under the traditional blanket of “sponsored review” as no money has exchanged hands at the time of their writing.

In that regard, I actually decided to make use of the “(aff)” tag on my blog for full disclosure of affiliate links, even when I’m just including a quick amazon link for a book I mention briefly. Though it’s a bit wonky and waning in popularity, the “aff” standard was something I felt I needed to implement to keep it clean.

Meanwhile, I see on other blogs hints of moving in the opposite direction: implementation of link cloaking software that actually modifies link text to make an affiliate link look exactly like a non-tagged link.

Search for “affiliate link cloaking” and you’ll find the results saturated with software companies more than happy to help bloggers intentionally disguise their income stream.

The FTC has recently proposed extending its jurisdiction over endorsement fraud regulation to bloggers. Although lobbyists are scrambling to loosen the FDA’s reach, I believe the FTC’s proposed rules can help shape our conversations about transparency and WOM ethics.

Your Opinion on Affiliate Links

So what’s your opinion on affiliate links? Does knowing that a blogger is writing reviews to earn a commission irk you? Or is it only a problem when she tries to hide it? Do you feel that she should fess up, or just cut it out entirely? Please take my poll, and comment below on your thoughts.

[Edit: I realized that in writing this post, it would have been more helpful if I included the proposed text from the Federal Trade Commission that related to regulation of bloggers. Here it is:

Example 7: A college student who has earned a reputation as a video game expert maintains a personal weblog or “blog” where he posts entries about his gaming experiences. Readers of his blog frequently seek his opinions about video game hardware and software. As it has done in the past, the manufacturer of a newly released video game system sends the student a free copy of the system and asks him to write about it on his blog. He tests the new gaming system and writes a favorable review. The readers of his blog are unlikely to expect that he has received the video game system free of charge in exchange for his review of the product, and given the value of the video game system, this fact would likely materially affect the credibility they attach to his endorsement. Accordingly, the blogger should clearly and conspicuously disclose that he received the gaming system free of charge. -- Federal Trade Commission, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising]


Mama Hope

* For the record, there are no “secret marketing links” in this post! In fact, all affiliate links on hippie dippie bébé are explicitly declared. For more on that, read my disclosure policy.

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Living Simply: Revisiting Your Relationship With Money

posted by Mama Hope | March 17th, 2009 in Frugality

As a part of our ongoing efforts to lead a happy and environmentally friendly life, we have been actively working to both reduce our spending (get frugal) as well as focus more closely on the objects in life that truly bring us pleasure (go simple living).
As a result, our income is lower than it has ever been, our environmental footprint drastically reduced, yet we have more money in our savings account than I ever had working on Wall Street! *

My personal decision a ways back to live my life less materialistically, sans shopping and dropping — dancing to the beat of a drummer whose rhythm was not dictated in dollar signs — was influenced both by the inspirational people in my world and the inspirational books I’ve read. A recent blog post on NatureMoms blog reminded me of some of the inspirations that have brought me where I am. I thought I’d share them with you!

* (Yes, it’s true, I worked as a computer programmer on Wall Street pre-9/11! Crazy!).

Why Do You Buy?

One of the most influential books I’ve read in this lifetime is the book Your Money or Your Life (aff). It’s a classic that’s been recently revised and updated to keep up with its ongoing audience. I got my copy in the 90’s, but the message remains vital! Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin were instrumental in the emergence of the Voluntary Simplicity movement, and Your Money or Your Life became popular as a clear easy-access argument for the personal benefits of living to your own values. It also includes a specific set of tools to change your habits in that direction, of course!

Though I don’t currently follow the method that they outline, I used their method when I initially read the book, and it taught me so many things about how I thought about money, not to mention my attitudes toward career and the way I invested my time.

fulfillment curve for simple living
Creative Commons License photo credit: trenttsd

One of my favorite chapters is their chapter entitled “The Money Trap, the Old Road Map for Money.” In it they feature a few graphs that truly hit their message home for me. Their primary graph is called “The Fulfillment Curve” and it details the level of fulfillment that we get from spending money.

  • Essentially, the premise is that we all begin by fulfilling basic universal human needs, like shelter and food and basic security and safety. These would be at the point labeled (2) on the chart above.
  • We then move to achieving the kind of things that bring us comforts, such as a bicycle, a larger wardrobe, toys, tickets to a show, etc. We’re spending more money and we’re increasing our level of comfort in our lives, as in point (3) on the chart above.
  • However, at some point, the additional money we’re spending reaches a peak (4), and suddenly we’re investing more and more time and money while our comfort and satisfaction diminishes rapidly (5,6,7!).

The authors point out that historically and culturally speaking, we are all duped into thinking that the fulfillment curve just goes up and up and up.

Spend more money, get happier, right? Wrong!

Why do we believe this to be the case? Because in the early days of industrialization, this was actually true, and that truth, “more equals better” became entrenched in our entire cultural worldview.

By now we believed that money equals fulfillment, so we barely noticed that the curve had started to level out. On we went into life. House. Job. Family responsibilities. More money brought more worry. More time and energy commitments as we rose up the corporate ladder. More time away from the family. More to lose if we were robbed, so more worry about being robbed…

We hit a fulfillment ceiling and never recognized that the formula of money - fulfillment not only had stopped working but had started to work against us. No matter how much we bought, the Fulfillment Curve kept heading down.

The authors go on to say that our personal goal as individuals should be to determine where the sweet spot is for us. On the graph above, it’s point number (4). At this point, we have, essentially, “Enough.” They offer up a very precise set of exercises and tools you can use to explore your own personal values, so that you put your money where it serves you best.

Approaching money this way has transformed my world, although I’m still learning every day. Part of the reason I enjoyed the approach in this book is that the emphasis is always on the enjoyment that you get from your investment of time and money, rather than on denying yourself things. Of course many of us have found that using this approach does lead to spending less and buying less (not to mention conserving the earth’s vital resources), as the things we spend money on tend naturally become more focused and “people-centered.”

Your Money or Your Life was the first money philosophy I encountered that built assessment into the system — assessing the value of how you spend your money. Rather than focusing on creating a budget, it focuses on awareness, and looking at what you spend after you’ve spent it!

If you truly enjoy something, it should be a vital highlight in your world, but it’s so easy to spend money on things that call out to us at the store, only to realize later that we don’t notice them or use them as much as we imagined, or worse, that they don’t really have anything to do with our interests or values!

Gateway to Simple Living

Your Money or Your Life was a “gateway book” for me. It opened me up to discovering the Voluntary Simplicity movement. As I’ve gradually made progress (sometimes one step back, sometimes two steps forward) a couple of additional resources have also been real highlights for me.

The Simple Living Network

The Simple Living Network’s website features articles by Duane Elgin, grandfather of the Voluntary Simplicity movement. Reading these truly struck a chord with me as he explained in clear terms what Simple Living is all about, and how it can be unique for each person. The Simple Living Network is also a great hub for all things Simple Living on the net.

Living the Simple Life: A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More (aff)

When we checked this book out of the library it immediately became my husband’s favorite Simple Living book. It’s short and sweet, and focuses on both your inner attitude toward happiness and how you can apply that to simplifying the things you do and the money you spend.

A Short Wish List

I’m always running into recommendations for books that perk my eye. My inspiration for this post, as I mentioned, was actually a book review by Tiffany at NatureMoms blog.

Frugal Luxuries: Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul (aff)

What intrigued me about Tiffany’s review of this book is the way it focuses not just on decreasing your spending but on ways to spend less on the aesthetic luxuries of life. Missing in my life lately has been an homage to my artistic past (I received my undergraduate at the San Francisco Art Institute and studied as a classical soprano for several years). I like the idea of a book that inspires me to find ways to keep things pretty while keeping simple! Of course, there’s always Etsy for that when I want to invite someone else’s creative talents into the house!

Like Your Money or Your Life, it seems that Frugal Luxuries is also focused on exploring and giving credence to your own personal values and pleasures. Tiffany tells a great little story that relates very closely to the Dominguez/Robin “Fulfillment Curve” concept:

This reminds me of that story of you often see posted on the Internet of the Mexican fisherman who fishes just enough to feed and support his family so he can spend the majority of his time sleeping late, playing with his children, taking siestas with his wife, going to the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. To him that is a full life. Then he meets and American who tells him that he should invest in more boats, put in more hours, expand his business, incorporate, and rake in lots of money. When the fisherman asks why he would want to do all that, the response is so that he could have enough money to be able to retire and sleep late, play with his grandchildren, take siestas with his wife, go to the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. He already had everything he wanted but some people have to do things the hard way.

Voluntary Simplicity (aff)

The original Simple Living book, and I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet! I always love to get back to the origins of a concept to get at the initial spark behind it.

I’m most anxious to read about the philosophical origins of Voluntary Simplicity, which are detailed in this book from a Christian, Eastern, early Greek, Puritan, Transcendental, and Quaker perspective. Fun, fun! Elgin’s writing style is both educated and easily approachable, and I’ve heard that this book, though weighty in its topic, is actually a pretty simple read, as it were!

Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter (aff)

This is a book I’m interested in as a companion to Living the Simple Life. Although I don’t usually like “100 ways to…” books, I was so impressed by Elaine St. James’ ability to sum up big concepts in few words that I think a book of tips written in her style would probably be a great “bathroom book” for keeping us on track and providing little nuggets of wisdom to incorporate without too much forethought.

Fruits of Voluntary Simplicity

Over the last decade or so, as I’ve gradually succeeded in giving up some of my more materialistic dreams for ones rooted in my values, I’ve realized that it’s become easier to see the personal things that stand in the way of inner satisfaction for me. Why? Because clearing away all the clutter of concerns over money and job status peels back the layers so you can truly begin to appreciate what makes you tick.

Am I forever happy? Whoah there, Nellie! Frugality and simplicity have given me the opportunity to center more on myself, but I have a long way to go… many pages to turn, many more truths and falsehoods to uncover.

On the plus side, life seems an ongoing journey of awakenings that bring me ever more satisfied and content with the skin that I’m in. And I can say one thing: I didn’t stop worrying about money until I stopped chasing it. I didn’t start having a surplus until I didn’t really care to spend the money I had! Fascinating!

These are some of the forces that shaped me. I’m sure you have yours too! Any inspirational books or people that shaped you in your relationship with money? Please share!


Mama Hope

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Is it Wrong to Openly Support Breastfeeding?

posted by Mama Hope | March 13th, 2009 in Attachment Parenting

I’ve been completely enjoying the commenting on a recent post at PhDInParenting entitled “When to Give Up on Breastfeeding.” In her post, PhD explains her dismay at a post she read where a mom named Colleen gave advice that moms should switch to formula if after two weeks breastfeeding isn’t working for them.

PhD concludes her well-researched post, saying:

I sympathize with the woman that wrote the original post and I know her heart is in the right place when she tells people they should give up at 2 weeks, but I don’t think she realizes that she is undermining them if they do want to continue and that recommendations like this can have disastrous results for breastfeeding rates and subsequently for our healthcare system.

It’s really a well-written response and I do recommend giving it a read! What was fascinating to me, however, was that some moms were actually offended by her remarks.

The whole thing opened up my thoughts on the larger issue of stating our opinions openly online. While I believe that understanding and support are great positives, I ended up coming even closer to my conviction that only through directly and courageously stating our opinions can we truly make a difference.

Lively Banter

A bit more back story: The string of comments on PhD’s post quickly began to get very thought provoking.

Sommer of Green and Clean Mom drew a line in the sand:

What about those that decide to NOT breastfeed or decide to quit because “their” emotional, mental or physical boundaries are different than yours? What you have done is drawn a line in the sand and puts you on one side and someone else on the other.

Shouldn’t the most important thing be a healthy mom and baby? Shouldn’t moms feel less judged and more supported? I don’t sense support or COMPASSION. The smell is clearly a mob of women that are pro breastfeeding and it is there way or the highway but NO that is not the case. We can’t all see the same way or have the same capabilities or handle the same stresses.

Ruth of Left of the Pleiades spoke to Coleen (the original poster), explaining why she feels we need more advice like PhD’s:

I think the reason your post has upset Annie to the point of actually making a poll is because of this very reason. If I had read your article when I was struggling, and given up when it wasn’t working out at two weeks, it would have dragged me even further down into the mire.

Amanda at Family Nature defended Annie’s conscientious writing:

Not once does PhD criticize the mother, or any mother. There is no name calling. There is no judgement. It seems that PhD went to great lengths to write in an unoffensive way. So I have to wonder…what exactly are people upset about? I mean specifically; what words or sentences do people find offensive? ‘Cause I just don’t get it.

And Kelly, a reader, explained just how our words can cause hurt:

But when I read about moms who struggled so mightily for weeks and months to “give their child the best start” I can’t help but feel insulted as my son has done just fine thank you oh so much. I did give him the best start. I loved him, cuddled him, held him nurtured him . . . What I’d like to see is some acknowledgment that for the women who struggled for so long that they did so because succeeding at breastfeeding was important to them, to their identify as mothers, to their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t just so that their babies would receive breastmilk. Because when that is how their struggles are presented, what moms like myself and Colleen take away is that these women sacrificed more for their babies. Perhaps that isn’t the intent.

My Response

I saw a theme in the comments to this post, one that relates to the issue of how we state our opinions as moms in general. What I think cuts to the heart of the banter here is the use of the word “support” and the different meanings that are equated with it. It’s a big topic in mothering and mommy-blogging, of course!

I can say that for myself, I do not equate the idea of being supportive with avoiding value judgements entirely. As mothers, especially educated mothers and bloggers, when we present our opinions, I believe the presumption is that we do so out of a combination of our personal values and our informed research. The understanding is that not everyone shares our values, our limitations, or our strengths. What works for one mom doesn’t necessarily work for another!

But if we go to extremes in that regard — essentially saying, “Whatever way you do things, honey, that’s ultimately the best thing that you possibly could have done and I support it wholeheartedly because I support all moms.” — I think we undermine our ability to truly help eachother.

When I ask someone for advice, I don’t expect them to tell me that they fully advocate whatever choice I make. I want to truly know what decision they support and what their experiential and educated reasons are for that. I hope to get the same from moms online.

No, in this particular situation I don’t personally feel that Annie at PhD has mis-stepped in either conducting her poll or writing her thoughts on how she feels moms can support each other regarding beginning breastfeeding. Why? Because she is honestly stating what she truly believes to be a positive course of action to benefit moms and babies. She is not pointing fingers, she is opening up doors.

Loving Ourselves While Upholding Our Values

When I wrote earlier about breastfeeding growth charts one of points I tried to make is that the WHO charts are based on optimal growth for babies, because, according to international health experts, breastfeeding is the optimal feeding choice. Period.

That doesn’t mean bottle feeding is wrong, or that it’s not entirely possible to love, nurture and care for a bright, well-developed child with bottle feeding! “Not optimal” and “wrong” are not the same thing. Personally I find that it’s easy for us as moms to wish that we could be doing everything, every aspect of parenting,  in the optimal way. When someone shares information about a particular thing we have done in the past that they believe may not have been the optimal choice, we jump to thinking they’re telling us we’re terrible moms! I’ve been there, and I know that mothering can cause these normal emotional reactions.

But, though we do need to be respectful of others feelings and clarify our message, I believe that it’s crucial that we don’t back away from the most important aspects of what we are trying to deliver. By diluting that message, I think we do everyone, babies, moms, heck our entire human populace, a disservice.

If I understood Kelly’s comment above, I believe that she was pointing out that when moms use phrases like “I want to give my child the best start” in relation to breastfeeding it can be read as an insult by those who didn’t succeed at or attempt breastfeeding for personal reasons. I can understand and truly respect the genuine needs and emotions that go into that.

But that’s where I think each of us need to love ourselves where we are. Breastfeeding is the best start. But it’s not the only aspect of parenting a baby there is. And I don’t think that by withholding that value judgment on breastfeeding in general we make things better for moms and babies.

For example, I feel like a failure because I let D play with a cute vintage toy my mom gave him, without testing it for lead first (more on that later, truly a mistake). But do I think that parents shouldn’t say out loud, “DON’T GIVE YOUR KIDS VINTAGE TOYS WITHOUT TESTING FOR LEAD!” No! Instead I wish I had been told that. Vociferously.

Breastfeeding is best. Lead toys are bad. It’s that simple in my mind. Does that mean that moms who choose bottle-feeding are as a lot unfeeling and neglectful? No, no, no! Absolutely not! Not only does it not mean that, but it also serves absolutely no purpose to even go there.

From what I know, 99.9% of moms spend their every waking moment trying to do what’s best for their kids with the situation and the information they have before them. We are all doing our best, but just because we can’t always make the best choices, doesn’t mean that all choices are equal.

What’s important is getting the right information out there to help us make those choices, not judging each other on what we do personally.

Thanks to everyone for the extremely intelligent discussion!


Mama Hope

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Immune-Boosting Baby Oatmeal Recipe

posted by Mama Hope | March 11th, 2009 in Healthy Recipes

Oatmeal rocks. Gluten-free, tasty, nourishing, and immune-boosting too! Especially if you’re making independent choices regarding vaccination, it’s good to have some recipes on hand that pack in some good nutrients to give your baby or child an immune system boost.

Here’s a recipe I’ve started making regularly that baby hearts:

Dried Fruit and Oatmeal Recipe for Babies and Toddlers

3 unsulphered dried apricots (they should be brown in color, not orange)
1 rounded teaspoon currants
3 slices frozen peach
2 cups water
1/2 cup breast milk or goat milk (optional, substitute more water for allergies)
1/2 cup rolled oats (for older toddlers, try oat groats or steel-cut oats)
1 tablespoon flax meal, or flax seeds ground in a blender or mill
1 rounded teaspoon cashew butter or tahini (optional, depending on age and allergies)

This recipe is a little bit of extra work but worth it and easy enough if you make a batch and keep it in the fridge for a few days to serve every morning!

Boil 2 cups water, and pour just enough to cover over the peaches in a small bowl. Add boiling water to pan (if not already in it!) and add oats. Return to boil, cover, reduce heat to low.

While oatmeal cooks, dice the apricots and currants to pieces small enough to prevent a choking hazard. Add diced dried fruit to pan, stir, replace lid and continue cooking. Remove peaches from bowl, now softened by boiling water. Dice and add peaches, milk and cashew butter or tahini to pan, stir, and replace lid.

Continue cooking oatmeal, checking occasionally and stirring as necessary until reduced to thick soupy consistency with oatmeal significantly softened. I like to cook this good and long to take the chewiness out of the oats and make it easier for baby to swallow and digest!

Where’s that Immune Boost?

Nearly all the ingredients in this recipe pack some immune boosting power.

According to Lucy Burney of Boost Your Child’s Immune System (aff) oatmeal is high in Vitamin C and magnesium, both vital to a healthy immune system. One cup of oatmeal also has 25% of the RDA of selenium.

We don’t talk about selenium nearly enough do we, honey? Here’s what naturopathic doctor Mary Bove has to say about selenium:

Selenium is a micromineral which acts as an antioxidant, reducing free radical activity and eliminating heavy metals such as lead and mercury from the body. Selenium increases the production of antibodies and increases T-cell ability to destroy bacteria. — An Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants (aff)

Zaps free radicals? Removes toxins? Superpowers immuno-super heroes? What’s not to love? Plus oatmeal is gluten-free, so there’s no risk of sensitizing your baby to gluten and causing allergies later in life. And, of course, it’s heart healthy: only have to watch a little bit of TV to know that!

What else?

Peaches and currants and flax seed, oh my!

Flax Seed Whole (Linum usitatissimum) 1 lb: K
Flax Seed
  • Flax seed and fish oils are the two highest source of Omega 3 fatty acids (linolenic acids) out there. Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are - guess what? - essential to your body’s immune system and must come from the foods we eat; the body cannot produce them on its own. According to Dr. Leo Galland of Superimmunity for Kids (aff), “The EFA famine among American children mainly involves Omega-3 EFAs.” We put flax seed on our cereals every single morning, and if you’re not already, you should be too! If you can’t find a good, fresh source of flax seed nearby, you can buy flax seed in bulk online, as well as flax seed meal (aff). Flax seed meal is more easily digestible and nutritionally available, but has a shorter shelf life and must be refrigerated. Or (if you don’t have gluten allergies) try to find Uncle Sam Cereal (aff). Packed with flax fantabulousness! While you’re at it, add flax seed or Uncle Sam’s to everything you bake, too!
  • Peaches are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, also immune-supportive.
  • Dried apricots are high in Vitamin A (beta carotene). They are also a good source of fiber and iron. Iron is important in baby’s diet, especially in the early months of eating solids.
  • One quarter cup of currants give you 84% of the US RDA of Vitamin C.
  • Cashews and tahini are good sources for copper, one of the co-factor minerals for essential fatty acids. The are both an excellent non-animal sources of protein, as vegetarians know well. Cashews have a lower fat content than most nuts and are largely comprised of oleic acid, the same mono-unsaturated hearty-healthy fat found in olive oil. You learn something new every day! Tahini (aff) is a blend of sesame seeds and olive oil and is found in most health food stores, or in the ethnic section of supermarkets.

A Note Regarding Allergies

As mentioned above, some of the ingredients I’ve included are optional depending on the age of your baby. To be sure you are not introducing allergens too early, here are some tips on when to introduce these ingredients. If you have a history of allergies in your family, be even more cautious.

According to most pediatricians, flax seed can be safely introduced after about 9 months. Milk can be introduced after 1 year, and goat milk is less allergenic than cow’s milk. For more on milk allergies, read Cheese, Friend or Foe?

Depending on the history of allergies in your family, pediatricians recommend waiting between 9 to 36 months before introducing nuts. Recommendations vary based on the philosophy of the doctor and the history of the child and her family.

If you are vegetarian, you might consider carefully introducing nut butters (never solid nuts for babies or toddlers) in the nine to twelve month range, though this is early by most doctor’s standards. For example, in Boost Your Child’s Immune System (aff) Lucy Burney writes:

I have suggested that [9 months] is a suitable time to introduce nuts and seeds into your baby’s diet [with the exception of peanuts]. But, as explained earlier, these foods can be highly allergenic, so if there is a history of allergy in the family it would be prudent to delay their introduction until your baby is one year old. I introduced ground nuts and seeds to my own children at nine months as I felt that the health benefits of these foods far outweighed the risks. Introduce the least allergenic first, such as ground almonds and ground sunflower seeds, and progress from there.

However, Dr. Alan Greene, of Raising Baby Green (aff), is more conservative:

For families with a strong history of food allergies (two or more parents or siblings with any food allergies, or one with severe food allergies), I suggest no milk, soy, or wheat for the first year; no eggs for two years; and no peanuts, tree nuts, or fish for three years.

For more on allergies, consult with your doctor or allergist!

Hope you enjoy this recipe. It’s pretty yummy, so you might want to double it and enjoy a bowl for yourself!


Mama Hope

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