Welcome to your life

“Welcome to your life.” Those were the words spoken to me by my therapist a couple of weeks ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since.

I was going through a brief phase of acceptance with regard to my anxiety disorder and seemed to be on the upswing at the time. That didn’t last long though as the very next week was one of the hardest I’ve had in a long time. I think a lot of it had to do with Ellie’s passing (we put our older dog to sleep last Tuesday and it was much harder than I thought it would be). I’ve had some other significant changes/stressors going on too – my little sister moved in with us and my mom went through a health scare. I went into grieving mode and a lot of emotions, thoughts and feelings, as well as anxiety and panic, emerged as a result.

Photo courtesy of Amanda M Hatfield
Photo courtesy of Amanda M Hatfield

I decided to start on anti-anxiety/anti-depression medication as of two weeks ago. Going on meds definitely wasn’t my first choice, but after going several months with only brief and fleeting improvements in the way I was feeling, I decided it was the right choice for me for right now. If being on medication can help me feel a little better while I continue to go to therapy and focus on sleep, exercise and taking better care of myself, then I will do it. I’d gotten to a point where I’ve been in nearly a constant state of anxiety and, as a result, I have been neglecting my kids and my marriage. I’m sick of telling my kids, “Don’t do that. Mommy doesn’t feel well.” I want them to be able to enjoy life and I want to enjoy it with them. I don’t want my whole family to have to walk on egg shells and constantly wonder how mommy is doing and how she will react. It’s not fair to them. A friend pointed out it’s not fair to me either to have to feel that way.

I’ve been taking Zoloft for two weeks now (a very low dose since when I tried to increase the dose, I started having insomnia, which was absolutely counterproductive) and haven’t noticed any good benefits yet, but my psychiatrist said it can take 2-6 weeks or even as many as 8, so I’m trying to be patient.

At the suggestion of my therapist last week, I picked up the book “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me both in showing me how I likely developed anxiety/panic disorder and in showing me steps to help myself recover from it. It’s also amazing how many things I can identify with in it. Talk about “welcome to your life.” This book feels like it was written just for me. If you have any issues with anxiety, panic, phobias or OCD, I strongly recommend this book. I am hopeful that it is going to have a huge impact on me as I try to heal myself. I’ve been doing the breathing techniques the past two nights and have found them alone to be very helpful.

One of the things I’ve found most frustrating in this whole process though is just how much of a process it is. There is no simple quick fix. Even medication takes time to kick in and to adjust the dosage and that (in my opinion) is really only a temporary solution and one part of the equation if true recovery is going to happen. And so I’m doing my best to be aware that the condition I’m in now took years and years to develop and it is going to take a long time to heal from as well. (Thanks to my dad for those words of wisdom.) I have to learn to appreciate the small victories and take it one day at a time or I will drive myself crazy.

I’ve taken a break from reading the news or anything that will likely raise my anxiety level. I read a little bit about the swine flu a couple days ago, and it sent me into a full-fledged panic attack. I’ve told Jody to tell me if there’s anything I need to know. Otherwise, I need to keep myself in the dark about some things for now for my own peace of mind.

Part of the reason I’m writing all of this is to let you know where I’m currently at, and also to encourage others who may be going through something like this that you are not alone. I also want you to know that I may not be blogging that often in the weeks ahead. (Subscribe to my RSS feed if you want to stay current.) I’ve already tapered off considerably from where I used to be – posting daily or nearly daily – and it feels good to take a break. I also haven’t been on Twitter much. I am sure it will wax and wane, but I also feel part of my recovery needs to involve looking at my internet addiction. Yes, I will freely admit to having one. I have lots of justifications for it too, but ultimately, I want to find a way to use the internet for productive reasons, not just to fritter away my time (which is what I’ve been doing way too much lately).

Yesterday was the first day this season I got out in the dirt in my backyard and did some weeding in my little strawberry patch from last year. I honestly haven’t felt at all like gardening so far this year, despite ordering seeds, seedlings and even some raspberry plants (that are still sitting, unplanted, in my garage). Although several of my friends have been digging in the dirt and planting for weeks, I just haven’t felt the gardening urge at all myself. That is, until yesterday. As I was weeding and getting the dirt under my fingernails and noticing that many of my strawberry plants have flowers on them, and the kids were playing in the dirt beside me, I began to feel alive and good and once again had the desire to garden. I think growing things and digging in the dirt will be very good for my mental health right now.

Like it or not, having anxiety/panic disorder is my life right now. It’s not what I would choose, but it’s where I’m at. I’m choosing to face it head on and do what I can to make it better – little by little, taking baby steps, one day at a time.

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Breastfeeding? Scheduled for a biopsy? Read this and pass it on.

Today I have a guest post from Tanya of Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog. She’s trying to spread the word about this valuable research and I’m happy to do my small part by passing it along to you. The original post is here and it is copied and pasted (with permission) below.

Picture this: You’re breastfeeding.  You notice a lump.  First maybe you think it’s a plugged duct.  But then it doesn’t go away, after many, many feedings.  You’re worried about it, so you make an appointment with your doctor, who doesn’t think it’s related to breastfeeding.  She sends you for a mammogram, but you’re told that you’ll have to have weaned for six months before the test can be done.  What do you do?*

I’ve mentioned before that I’m involved in a powerful research project based at the University of Massachusetts, and supported by the Love/Avon Army of Women breast cancer project.

I’d like to explain more about it now, and ask for your help in recruiting participants for it.

It’s probably news to most of us (it was to me) that when you make milk, cells from your milk ducts are exfoliated off in the process.  These are called epithelial cells, and they’re detectable in your milk.

Past research has demonstrated that long before we notice a lump, those epithelial cells start changing in ways that are precursors to the development of breast cancer.

Dr. Kathleen Arcaro, a UMass professor who studies breastfeeding and breast cancer risk wants to analyze those cells.  She’s been nice enough to visit a breastfeeding group I run, and answer questions about breastfeeding and breast cancer.

The primary goal of her research is to determine if it’s possible to create a non-invasive, early way of assessing our breast cancer risk through our breastmilk.  If it’s successful, it would also establish ‘molecular biomarkers’ for breast cancer risk.

An additional benefit to breastfeeding mothers is that we would not be told, as some are, to wean before a mammogram or biopsy can be done.  No more choosing between breastfeeding and a breast cancer test.  It could be as simple and sending in a milk sample to a lab!

In order to conduct this research, Dr. Kathleen Arcaro needs to find 250 women who are both lactating and scheduled for a biopsy.  To participate, you’d overnight milk samples to her lab, at no cost to you.

So if you, or someone you know, is both breastfeeding and scheduled for a biopsy, please ask them to email either me, Dr. Arcaro, or Dr. Sarah Lennington as soon as possible.  You can visit the project’s website to learn more.

If you write a blog or are in contact with lots of moms on a forum, please pass this link around!

And if you haven’t done it yet, register for the Love/Avon Army of Women.  You’ll join one million women volunteering to become part of a rich pool of women researchers can use to find the causes and prevention of breast cancer.  You can see other participating studies on the site.  Here’s a recent Today Show clip on the project.

* Mammograms can be done on lactating breasts, but they are viewed as less accurate than on non-lactating breasts.  Some doctors will do them, others require mothers to wean first.  Some send mothers for ultrasounds.

Another reason to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup – mercury!

In case you needed another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup, here’s a new one – it may contain mercury. According to a Washington Post article, “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.”

Janelle Sorensen (of Healthy Child, Healthy World) co-authored the studies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade report along with Dr. David Wallinga, mentioned in the Washington Post article.

According to Sorensen (who spoke with me via email), at this time it is unknown what species of mercury this is. Personally I don’t know that it matters too much, because mercury is just plain bad for our health.

  • The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.
  • The EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methylmercury are possible human carcinogens.
  • Very young children are more sensitive to mercury than adults.

You may recall that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings regarding the consumption of certain types of fish containing mercury for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children.

Should there be warnings against consumption of mercury-laced HFCS too? When you consider HFCS is found in so many food and drink products these days, it may seem hard to avoid. Cereal? Yes. Bread? Yes. Soup? Yes. Lunch meat? Yes. Yogurt? Yes. Condiments? Yes. Soda? YES! Even infant formula can contain corn syrup! If you shop at a conventional grocery store (not a health foods store), check out the ingredients listed on just about anything you buy. You’ll be surprised (and maybe even a little freaked out) how many items contain HFCS. According to the Washington Post, “On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.”

That’s why the HFCS commercials by the Corn Refiners Association are so laughable. They say HFCS is fine in moderation (though they never quantify what that amount is), but how do you consume it in moderation when it’s infiltrated a large percentage of the products in the grocery store?

What really freaks me out though is to know that corn syrup is in infant formula. It might not be high fructose corn syrup, but still. Does a baby need artificial sweeteners? What about genetically modified (GMO corn) sweeteners as most corn is? And more importantly, how can a baby, who’s diet consists solely of formula, possibly consume it in moderation? Or is moderation only necessary for HFCS, but not corn syrup? I tried to find the ingredients in formula listed online and was able to find a few brands – two listed the first ingredient as water, followed by corn syrup. That’s alarming to me.

Increased corn allergies
Could this prevalence of corn in the diets of the youngest of our species, as well as being the number one thing Americans eat (because it’s in nearly everything), be contributing to the rise in corn allergies in this country? My guess is yes.

Returning to the study…
Sorensen shared with me some of her thoughts after doing months of research about HFCS and mercury:

In essence, we rely on a vastly complicated global food system that has many opportunities to go awry. And, not only is the chain of ingredients and manufacturing very complex, the foods we are eating are very complex and unlike anything people ate even two generations ago. HFCS is one story in this grand theater of food production. And, even though the studies are small, it’s clearly an actor that deserves more attention as a potential instigator in the public health drama we are currently witnessing. First of all, HFCS is an unnecessary part of the human diet. We thrived for millennia without it. Second, the caustic soda used to manufacture it can be made using mercury-free technologies. Safer alternatives exist and are used widely at this very moment. Third, even though the exposure is minute, it’s a repeat offender in the average US diet and should also be addressed in the context of combined daily exposures of modern day society.

The authors of both of the studies recognize the limitations of their findings. There is clearly much more research to be done in order to be able to understand what the true health implications may be. Maybe the impacts end up being nominal, but who wants to risk their child’s health and development waiting to find out when it’s such an unnecessary exposure?

Human development is a miracle. The journey from egg and sperm to adult (and even beyond) is a tumultuous and risky endeavor. Research is increasingly showing how very vulnerable the developing fetus is – susceptible to exquisitely small environmental exposures – so, why take an unnecessary chance? Why even allow antiquated technologies that are extremely pollutive; that have safer, economically feasible alternatives; that are completely unnecessary in food production? There is not a single piece of this story that makes sense.

What is the FDA’s response to the request for “immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply?”

Sorensen says:

The FDA and industry are quickly trying to assuage the concerns spread by these reports, calling us irresponsible for setting false alarms. But, the FDA and industry are notorious at this point for coercing people into taking risks their instincts tell them not to. I’m not anti-FDA nor anti-industry; I simply believe in transparency of information. If you decide this risk is nominal, that’s your decision. For me, and my family, it’s not okay. And, it’s extremely simple to avoid.

How do you avoid HFCS?
You buy whole foods, not processed foods. You prepare meals from scratch. You grow your own vegetables and buy from local farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs. You look for certified organic foods. You read the labels and find alternatives to the products containing HFCS. It might seem like it’s in everything, but it’s not. There are brands of bread that don’t contain it (even at Costco), just as there are brands of soda, yogurt, and infant formula, but you have to read the labels to find out. Become a wise consumer and vote with your dollars.

Finding balance
It might seem like the best bet it to avoid HFCS at all costs, but even Sorensen admits that she lets her kids consume it once every now and then. “It’s a very small amount and I know I’m very careful about other exposures. Life is all about balance.” Yes, yes it is.

Lastly, if you are looking to reduce the HFCS in your or your family’s life, you might want to check out the blog A Life Less Sweet One family, no high fructose corn syrup, eating healthier. And here are a few more related posts: from Nature’s Child – HFCS, fortified with mercury, from Ask Moxie – Whoa: Mercury in HFCS, and (a really good one) from AngieMedia – High Fructose Corn Syrup is Dangerous for Many Reasons. A couple more: from Mom-101 – High fructose corn syrup contains mercury and other reasons I think we’re going to start feeding our kids air and from Her Bad MotherPoison In The Ketchup: This HFCS Scare Might Actually Make Me Start, You Know, Cooking From Scratch Or Something.

Overcoming jaundice, nipple confusion and other interruptions in early breastfeeding relationships

If you live in the Western world, you’ve no doubt heard the catch phrases “Babies were born to be breastfed” and “Breast is Best.” Many women start out with the best of intentions for breastfeeding their new bundles of joy, but sometimes circumstances beyond their control can cause interruptions in early breastfeeding relationships. Talk of jaundice, biliruben levels and supplementing with formula are not things many parents are prepared to be confronted with just days after their child’s birth. So what should you do if you find yourself suddenly dealing with the unexpected?

After experiencing a labor and birth with my daughter that was unlike anything I had anticipated, breastfeeding seemed to be the one thing that was going in our favor. Ava came into the world as they say, born to breastfeed. Although I had a little trouble with her latch initially, with some help from a nurse we soon seemed to be well on our way. She would eagerly latch on and spend 30 to 45 minutes on each breast, nursing contentedly. Then a pediatrician (not her’s, but one in her pediatrician’s practice) told us that she was jaundice and not only did he recommend that she go under the bilirubin lights (in the form of a bili-blanket, thankfully in my hospital room), he also wanted me to supplement with formula to help flush the jaundice out of her system. Formula? But, but, but, I’m exclusively breastfeeding. We even had a note on her bassinet in the hospital saying, “I’m a breastfed baby. No artificial nipples or bottles please.” I had every intention of breastfeeding her exclusively and now it seemed that even that wouldn’t happen. Not knowing what else to do, I acquiesced and allowed my husband Jody and/or a nurse to feed her formula from a bottle, while I continued to nurse her ’round the clock. I absolutely did not want to give her a bottle myself because I wanted to avoid confusing her. I wanted Ava to know I was the one with the breasts and that those breasts were the only way she was getting nourishment from me. (Kellymom states: “If your baby is less than 3-4 weeks old, it is best to avoid the use of a bottle for a couple of reasons: regular use of a bottle instead of breastfeeding can interfere with mom’s efforts to establish a good milk supply; bottle use also increases baby’s risk of nipple confusion or flow preference.”) Little did I know that I could have given the formula to her myself actually from my breast and avoided a bottle all together had anyone at the hospital told me about something called a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) or lactation aid. “A lactation aid consists of a container for the supplement — usually a feeding bottle with an enlarged nipple hole — and a long, thin tube leading from this container.” The tube is taped onto the woman’s breast, allowing the baby to nurse at the breast and receive expressed breast milk, formula, glucose water, etc. at the same time. So why wasn’t an SNS mentioned to me – a mother who wanted to breastfeed exclusively and obviously wanted to avoid nipple confusion that could come from introducing a bottle so early? Are other hospitals recommending SNS to breastfeeding moms?

Thankfully, Ava did not suffer from nipple confusion and took to the breast well every time (and, if you are familiar with my previous posts you know she ended up breastfeeding for a long time), but that’s not the case for everyone. Many babies who are offered a bottle before they are ready to differentiate between mom’s breast and a rubber nipple have trouble with their latch or will refuse to latch onto the breast at all.

Nell who blogs at Casual Friday Everyday gave birth to her third son Dash just two weeks ago. When her pediatrician (note: not her usual pediatrician) determined that Dash had jaundice – which was not unexpected since her other two sons had it as well – she was told he needed to go to the NICU. That news, however, came out of left field and was completely unexpected. Neither of her other kids received any special treatment for jaundice.

I almost couldn’t process what was being said. Like it wasn’t really sinking in. We walked down to the NICU with our tiny little baby – a place with a few other babies with jaundice also. They removed his clothing and began hooking him up to everything.

We set up a time that I’d be back to nurse him and my husband and I left; left our newborn baby all alone, under lights, with strangers. I cry just writing about this.

I walked back up to our floor empty handed and broken-hearted. My heart felt like it had been shattered. Like part of me was missing – well, because it was. Every single part of me wanted to run back into the NICU, grab him and run out of the hospital.

Dash also received formula from a bottle to help treat the jaundice, and Nell believes, the combination of him being taken to the NICU and use of the bottle contributed to the nipple confusion they are now trying to overcome.

This has been a particularly difficult thing for Nell because she struggled with breastfeeding issues like tongue-tie and thrush with her first two children and was determined that this time, with Dash, the breastfeeding relationship would be different.

This baby was going to be different. I was determined not to introduce a bottle to him. To avoid the nipple confusion. To nurse well into his first year, if not longer. And then unexpectedly he was put into the NICU and supplemented with a bottle. Had I been offered the option of an SNS I would have taken it in a heart beat.

Again, why wasn’t a SNS (lactation aid) offered to this breastfeeding mom? And was it really necessary for them to take a jaundice baby to the NICU?

Since leaving the hospital, Nell and Dash have also developed thrush, but she is determined to make breastfeeding work this time around and is reaching out for help.

I’m not ready to give up even though this has turned into the most difficult experience of all three.

I have reached out to the local LLL gals in my area for help. I’ve explained my problems via email and asked for a phone call. I’m going to attend the meetings for one on one help. And I’m going to try some Thrush remedies that don’t require a doctor to prescribe them.

I think Nell did one of the most important things a woman who find herself in these situations can do – reach out for help. Call another breastfeeding mom, call La Leche League, call a lactation consultant (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). Call or email someone who can point you in the right direction of the resources and support you need to help you succeed.

Carina of Greetings from the Jet Set had a difficult time getting a good breastfeeding relationship started with her son after a fill-in pediatrician, concerned that her two-day-old son was jaundiced, recommended she supplement her nursing with an ounce of formula after each feeding. The supplementation took place via bottle, her son suffered from nipple confusion and her supply dropped a great deal. After her son’s two week appointment, she sought out a lactation consultant and was able to figure out a good latch and taught how to use a SNS. “After a few weeks of that, my supply righted itself and we went on our way.” She told me on Twitter, “I tell everyone that while they are short term WORK, they yield long term results. 1-2 wks of SNS yielded 2.5 years.” That is to say that she used the SNS for one to two weeks and, as a result of the reestablished breastfeeding relationship, she was able to nurse her son for 2 1/2 years.

Carina, a self-described lactivist, also responded to a woman’s question on Yahoo on this very topic. The woman wrote, “Doctor told me that my breast milk is increasing his jaundice level, so I was told to give him formula milk and breast milk alternatively.” She asked, “how long will I be asked to give him formula milk? When will he be switched completely to breast milk?”

Carina replied, “your doctor gave you outdated advice. It is NO LONGER advised for you to stop breastfeeding and give formula.” She then quoted several articles that support her claim. The first is from Dr. Jack Newman.

Breastmilk jaundice peaks at 10-21 days, but may last for two or three months. Breastmilk jaundice is normal. Rarely, if ever, does breastfeeding need to be discontinued even for a short time. Only very occasionally is any treatment, such as phototherapy, necessary. There is not one bit of evidence that this jaundice causes any problem at all for the baby. Breastfeeding should not be discontinued “in order to make a diagnosis”. If the baby is truly doing well on breast only, there is no reason, none, to stop breastfeeding or supplement with a lactation aid, for that matter. The notion that there is something wrong with the baby being jaundiced comes from the assumption that the formula feeding baby is the standard by which we should determine how the breastfed baby should be. This manner of thinking, almost universal amongst health professionals, truly turns logic upside down. Thus, the formula feeding baby is rarely jaundiced after the first week of life, and when he is, there is usually something wrong. Therefore, the baby with so called breastmilk jaundice is a concern and “something must be done”. However, in our experience, most exclusively breastfed babies who are perfectly healthy and gaining weight well are still jaundiced at five to six weeks of life and even later. The question, in fact, should be whether or not it is normal not to be jaundiced and is this absence of jaundice something we should worry about? Do not stop breastfeeding for “breastmilk” jaundice.

According to Breastfeeding Basics:

In most cases, jaundice is a normal, possibly even beneficial process that can be managed without interrupting breastfeeding. The treatment for physiologic jaundice is more breastfeeding rather than less, and sick babies with pathologic jaundice need breastmilk even more than healthy babies. Even in rare cases where the jaundice is caused by the breastfeeding, there is no reason to wean and every reason to continue giving your baby the best possible nourishment – mother’s milk. In most cases, jaundice is a normal, possibly even beneficial process that can be managed without interrupting breastfeeding. The treatment for physiologic jaundice is more breastfeeding rather than less, and sick babies with pathologic jaundice need breastmilk even more than healthy babies. Even in rare cases where the jaundice is caused by the breastfeeding, there is no reason to wean and every reason to continue giving your baby the best possible nourishment – mother’s milk.

According to a La Leche League article:

In an article in the November 1990 issue of BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS, Kathi Kemper, MD, MPH, suggests that prolonged hospitalization, phototherapy, and the interruption of breastfeeding may be unnecessary and even harmful for the mother and for the infant with normal neonatal jaundice. She writes, “In the case of healthy term infants who are jaundiced, the treatment could be worse than the disease.”

So what is going on here? Why are hospitals treating jaundice this way if it’s a “normal, possibly even beneficial process?” Is the real problem that pediatricians attitudes about breastfeeding are deteriorating?

I think educating one’s self is always a good thing. Of course, it’s impossible to prepare for every possible scenario, but if a woman knows in advance that breastfeeding jaundice is a normal occurrence and isn’t always a cause for concern, then perhaps she can make better informed choices with regard to her child’s care. If she and her doctor decide that supplementation is necessary, then knowing about a SNS/lactation aid and asking for the help of a lactation consultant could be invaluable. And then, if a woman finds herself in a situation where, for whatever reason, she has trouble with breastfeeding, knowing where to look for help at the first sign of trouble is key. It’s also helpful for family and friends to know what to do (and not to do) to support a breastfeeding mother.

Lastly, there’s an eye-opening article that ties into this topic nicely on Today’s Parent called “Nursing Confidential: Breastfeeding can be one of the biggest challenges of new motherhood. Now 7,000 Today’s Parent readers tell us why.”

What was your early breastfeeding relationship like? Did you have to overcome any obstacles? How did you do it?

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Breastfeeding until age 3, 4, or 5: more common than you think?

When my daughter was born four and a half years ago, I had no plan for how long I would breastfeed her, I just knew that I would start off breastfeeding and then go with the flow. It so happens that in our case going with the flow meant that one month shy of her fourth birthday she was still nursing (albeit only once a day), and as I would soon discover, we weren’t the only ones on this path.

Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov
Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov

I wrote my thoughts about this shortly before her fourth birthday in a post titled On Nursing a Preschooler.

I didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

When I wrote that post I was feeling rather isolated and wondered if there were others who’d chosen (either deliberately or unintentionally) to take the long-term (a preferred alternative term to “extended”) breastfeeding route. I soon got my answer. I received 62 comments on that post. Amazingly none of them were negative and several came from women saying that they too nursed an older child and many thanked me for talking about it openly.

Lisa from The Joy of Six said, “I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve nursed mine until they stopped which has been anywhere from 14 mo to 4. Thanks for letting all those ‘closet nursing’ mommies know they aren’t alone.”

Melissa at Through My Window said: “The whole time I was nursing both of my girls past the age of 4 I always wished that I could talk about it and that more moms were willing to admit that they were nursing for a long time too. My girls only nursed at nap-time and bedtime as they became older which meant only 1-2 times/day. Of course, they are weaned now, but I have no regrets and I would absolutely nurse future children as long.”

Liesl from Come, Mommy, who was tandem nursing both her 4 1/2 year old and baby at the time, said:

Got a 4.5 year-old-nursling over here! Sometimes it is a lot to nurse two, but on the other hand, it’s one of the few times Liam will settle down for a bit. Then after he nurses, he’ll sit around and chat, and that’s when I often find out the things on his mind. And I think it’s eased his transition to brotherhood as well. Nursing a 4 year old is a very different thing than nursing a baby, and it is most definitely not for everyone, but overall I’m glad I stayed with it.

Nina (no blog listed) said:

I think it is important for those who think breast feeding a preschooler is *bad* that in many, many parts of the world this is quite normal. Only with the invasion of TVs and computers (whereby the views of more advanced countries are shown) have many moms stopped breastfeeding after about 1 year, they seem to think that the entire world is like that.

My mother was a midwife before she married my father and she very, very strongly rec. breast feeding until the child was ready to wean on his/her own and this was back in the 50’s!

Heather at A Mama’s Blog shared with me a story from her former employer:

My old boss told me an interesting story a few years ago. He was in his 60’s at the time, and grew up in the country. He said when he went to school at lunch time the “little” boys about ages 6 and 7 would go home to nurse. There wasn’t a lot of food at that time, and the mothers also used it as a form of birth control.

I thought that was pretty interesting that just in the 1940s, nursing a 6 and 7 year old was perfectly acceptable. Too bad we have come so far in the other direction in the last 60 years.

I also took an informal poll (if you will) on Twitter to see if others are nursing or have nursed children ages 3 and up. I was rather surprised by the number of replies I received.

Tomorrow evening, Jan. 2, barring any late-breaking big news stories, ABC’s 20/20 is set to air an episode featuring segments on long-term (extended) breastfeeding, as well as home birth (both with and without midwives), serial surrogates (women that have numerous babies for other women), “fake babies” (life-like dolls), and orgasmic birth. I believe the title for the show is “Extreme Mothering.” You can see a preview of the breastfeeding segment, which included an interview with the mother of a 6-year-old boy who still nurses, as well as an interview with the boy, on ABC News.

Although I put together a decent little list of mothers and children who are long-term breast-feeders (and that’s without searching on the ‘net for other bloggers or celebrities – yes, there are some), there will, undoubtedly, still be those who think it is weird, gross, damaging, or just plain wrong. If you find yourself in that camp, you might want to consider the following.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life‡ and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” AAP goes on to say, “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)
  • The World Health Organization recommends “infants should be exclusively breastfed(1) for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health(2). Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2001)
  • Former US Surgeon General Antonio Novello, MD has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two.
  • When to Stop Breastfeeding Your Child: A Case for Extended Nursing includes the many benefits of extended nursing
  • Additionally, there are more position statements from various organizations linked up on KellyMom

But wait, there’s more. According to Summer Minor in her post Is 4 too old to be breastfed?,”Biologically, 4 years is still in the normal range for humans.”

The book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives contains a wonderful section called “A Time to Wean: The Hominid Blueprint for a Natural Age of Weaning in Modern Human Populations.” by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D. Dr. Dettwyler is an award winning anthropologist, professor, and breastfed her daughter until she was 4 years old. In the section Dettwyler compares various primates, including humans, to find what the biological norm would be for humans. She found that the natural age for modern humans based on our size, development, and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. A child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and OK.

If you find yourself long-term nursing your child, there’s a good chance that at some point you will run into criticism from others. La Leche League International has some good advice for handling criticism from family, friends or even complete strangers.

If you’re facing criticism, remember that they may simply be uninformed about the benefits of extended breastfeeding or perhaps they feel guilt about their own parenting choices. Consider responding to unwelcome comments by:

  • Ignoring: walking away or changing the subject.
  • Informing: sharing books, articles, or a medical professional’s thoughts on extended nursing.
  • Using Humor: making a joke about the situation or yourself, not the other person.
  • Acknowledging: recognizing the person’s viewpoint and asking further questions without agreeing or disagreeing
  • Empathizing: being empathetic to demonstrate that you understand the other person’s feeling and meaning (Vakiener 1999).

Dr. William Sears has some advice about handling the criticism as well. Here are some things he suggests you keep in mind:

  • Science is on your side.
  • World opinion is on your side.
  • It’s better for your health.
  • It’s better for your toddler’s behavior.
  • Blame it on your doctor.
  • Let your child silence the critics.

For more information about each of these suggestions, visit Ask Dr. Sears: Extended Breastfeeding — Handling the Criticism.

There’s additional information about Handling Criticism about Breastfeeding at KellyMom.

Speaking of KellyMom, which is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding, if you are the mother of a long-term nurser and are looking for support, check out their forums. There’s a forum for nursing children ages 3 and up. There are also forums for the toddler years – ages 12-24 months and ages 24-36 months.

While I decided to focus primarily on older children in this post, many women on Twitter chimed in that they are nursing their kids to age two as well, including: Reiza at Stepping Off the Spaceship, Summer at Wired for Noise, Mom Most Traveled, Annie at PhD in Parenting, Sherri at Recovering Sociopath, and Sara (who was breast-fed herself until age 4 1/2) at Custom-Made Milk, among others.

While I’m sure some of my relatives thought my daughter would nurse “forever,” I can assure you she did not. Her last nursing was on Oct. 3, 2008, at age 4 years, 3 months and 11 days. It was mostly child-led, although I did nudge her a bit at the end. I felt that she was ready, but needed a little extra push (and I knew I was ready). It was bittersweet, but I think it went quite smoothly. I hope to write about the experience one day soon before I forget it. It is yet to be seen what my son will decide to do. As for now, he’s still going strong nursing at 25 months.

It is my hope that as a result of segments like the one on 20/20 and the fact that more women are feeling comfortable speaking out about long-term nursing (as evidenced by all of the comments and Tweets I received), that others will not feel like they need to be “closet nursers” nor feel pressured by family, friends or society in general to wean before they feel it is right for them and their child. Let’s trust our judgment to do what’s right for our child and trust the judgment of other moms to do what’s right for their child too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer. I’d love it if you’d share your comments there too! 🙂

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Depression hits working moms hard

Note: I wrote this nearly a week ago for BlogHer, where it is cross-posted.

The holiday season is in full force – a time that, at least in theory, should be filled with joy and happiness. But what if you find yourself having feelings that are far from those of joy and happiness? Feelings of hopelessness, agitation, guilt and even lifelessness? According to an online survey conducted by Working Mother magazine, you aren’t alone. The survey, which included responses from 500 moms, concluded that "an overwhelming 91 percent" of working moms suffered some symptoms of depression.

Suzanne Riss, editor-in-chief of Working Mother called the trend "an epidemic."

While many people are familiar with postpartum depression in the months after giving birth, Riss said, "people don’t really think about the fact that a couple of years later a lot of women are experiencing depression." And some even experience it a decade into their children’s lives.

The survey was part of an article on Working Mother about working moms and depression and includes personal stories from some moms who have experienced depression, as well as life-altering solutions.

Heather from A Mama’s Blog, who works part-time outside the home, recently wrote about her feelings of guilt when she had to miss her son’s preschool winter concert.

I have been at my job for fifteen months, and I haven’t missed anything that I felt guilty about in my boys’ lives. But that is going to change this week. Ryan’s preschool is having a winter concert later this week. The kids have been practicing their songs for a few weeks now. I hear Ryan practicing his song, and humming the tune. He sounds so cute singing it, and he is so excited. The school is having the concert at a local church, so it is a very big deal.

Except I can’t go…

I know I shouldn’t be sad- I should be thankful I have a job, and I am, but how do you balance out the grown-up responsibilities that you must fulfill with knowing you will miss your little boy singing about seven little penguins who are cold?

Laurel from Parenting Diva has dealt with depression and shares something I think most moms – working outside the home or not – can relate to, not having enough time for everything:

"I suffered from depression beginning with my pregnancy and I continued to experience it up until my oldest was about a year old. Of course I, like many others, did not go to the doctor concerning it. Perhaps this is why depression isn’t seen as the epidemic that it is.

There was the time factor. Who can take off work and has a babysitter to go to the doctor because you aren’t feeling like yourself and are feeling “down”? Then there is the “stigma” with depression. If you aren’t loving life (especially while & after having this “bundle of joy”) then something definitely must be wrong with you. And lastly, like everything else in life, you figure…eventually it will go away."

Laurel goes on to add:

I figure there are all types of depression & some probably need to be medically diagnosed and treated. But a lot of things we can take care of ourselves if we just stop, listen to our lives and create a plan. Unfortunately, like with myself, it often takes many years of living & learning as women before we wake up and ask ourselves what’s important and what we really should be doing with our lives.

A woman who goes by "Neuromom" made some good points about the results of the survey in her comment on Mommy Trackd:

I agree that depression is a big problem – especially for women and especially for mothers. However, reports like this one should be interpreted in context. First, it is critical to know the percentage of NON-working mothers who are depressed. Otherwise there is no way to assess the effect of working of depression. Second, an online survey isn’t a great way to gauge depression rates because the survey responders do not constitute a random sample. The actual percentage of working mothers suffering from depression could be higher or lower- we have no way of knowing.

I think it’s safe to say that many mothers – whether they work outside the home, at home, or are stay-at-home moms – are dealing with depression. Hopefully surveys and articles such as the one Working Mother had, combined with more women writing and talking about it, will contribute towards fighting the stigma that often accompanies depression and more women will feel OK talking about it and reaching out for help.

Additional resources:
Postpartum progress by Katherine Stone
Depression Help Center from WebMD
FAQ – Depression During and After Pregnancy from womensHeath.gov

Giving birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic

I know I just wrote about this topic last week, but I have more to share and wrote about it for BlogHer this week.

Last week, Lisa Belkin, parenting blogger at The NY Times, wrote about the upcoming 20/20 special on the film “Orgasmic Birth.” The topic apparently hit a nerve with many, many people as she quickly received more than 500 comments.

Many people, as to be expected, are skeptical.

Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda had the most humorous response I read to the idea.

As soon as I

1) Find a man with a 9-pound penis
and
2) Become drunk enough to let him put it inside me for thirty hours at a time

I’ll definitely see if those conditions can result in an orgasm.

But until then? Whatever, man.

Catherine, who blogs at Her Bad Mother, had similar feelings and said, “Me, personally …? I think that I’ll stick to getting my orgasms the old-fashioned way.”

The day after Lisa Belkin’s initial NY Times post she followed up with About that orgasmic birth… and went into a little more detail about the responses she received, the film and one of the women featured in the film.

I was not surprised at the number of comments that dismissed the possibility as a fairytale. I was very surprised at the number of women who wrote to say that they had experienced what the film explored. I was a little distressed at the hostility the first of these groups showed to the second. And I was somewhat surprised, and very pleased, to receive an e-mail from Tamra Larter, one of the subjects of the film, who had been following all the comments, and wanted to make a few of her own.

It’s really worth it to click over there to read what Ms. Larter had to say about the film and her birthing experience, but here’s a snippet.

“I hope people will see the film,” she wrote. “Then they will see that it is about much more than the title suggests. There are many choices and possibilities when it comes to birth.”

And she uses the word “orgasm” with conditions. “I never claimed to have a pain-free birth,” she wrote, “but laboring with my daughter was awesome and for the most part felt really good.” The actual “orgasmic experience” did not feel like the climax of sex, she says, but rather “sensations which were something different than sex, but similar enough I feel O.K. using the word orgasmic. It was a wonderful feeling.”

She also confessed that upon first hearing about the idea of orgasmic birth, she thought it was “gross,” “weird,” and “not possible,” but said it was before she had had any children and the only childbirth she had seen had been on TV.

After reading many comments and several blogs about this, I clicked over to the Orgasmic Birth web site, where I watched the trailer (again). The first time I watched it was many months ago and I felt a refresher was in order.

I admit that even with all of the birth videos I’ve watched in the past and my “crunchy” ways, it makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat to hear a woman making pleasurable sounds while in childbirth (or in any situation really). And yet, I see the whole “orgasmic birth” thing as being just a small piece of the film, and believe it is titled the way it is to grab our attention. (And it’s certainly worked, hasn’t it?) I still believe, as I wrote on my blog over a week ago, “that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.”

Marsden Wagner, MD, who is interviewed in the film, makes an excellent point about childbirth saying, “It’s got to be like it is when you make love with someone. It’s got to be safe, secure and uninterrupted. And that is how you have an orgasmic birth.”

I do not want to turn this into a debate over home birth vs. hospital birth, but having had both types of births I will say I felt much more safe, secure and uninterrupted at home than I did in the hospital. Although I’m sure it’s possible, I think that for the most part, these “orgasmic births” are much more likely to occur in a birthing center or home environment than in the hospital.

I think the term “orgasmic birth” is subject to interpretation too and noticed that on the Orgasmic Birth site, in their call for birth stories they say, “Please share your ecstatic or orgasmic birth story with us.” I would never say that I had an orgasm while giving birth to my son, but the experience was amazingly intense and was one of the most empowering moments in my life. Does that mean it was an orgasmic birth? Maybe. Was it an ecstatic birth? I believe it was.

Ninotchka had an empowering birth experience as well and commented about it on my blog:

I can’t say that I had an orgasm while giving birth. But after birthing Elle right into my hand, I felt so triumphant and organically happy that I would certainly call that feeling “orgasmic.” It all happened so fast and we’d waited so long for that little sweetheart. It was a definite rush and I was absolutely elated.

I think giving birth will always conjure up different ideas and feelings for different people. No two births are exactly the same and I think that’s the way it should be. Innerbrat summed it all up nicely when she said, “The important thing here, as with everything regarding women’s health, is to give women the ownership of our own bodies, so we can make an informed, conscious decision about what’s best for us and our children; and the first and best way to be informed is to openly talk about the subject.”

ABC’s 20/20 special on Orgasmic Birth, which will also include segments on home birth (unassisted and midwife-attended) and long-term breastfeeding, is currently set to air Friday, Jan. 2, 2009.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Consumer Reports: high-tech births=poor outcomes

Consumer Reports isn’t just for researching your next car purchase or washing machine anymore. That’s right, that longtime resource for product reviews has broadened its scope to include health and wellness. In a recent article Consumer Reports tackles the topic of childbirth, concluding that "Too many doctors and hospitals are overusing high-tech procedures."

Consumer Reports cites a new report, Evidenced-based Maternity Care by the nonprofit Childbirth Connection, which found that "in the U.S., too many healthy women with low-risk pregnancies are being routinely subjected to high-tech or invasive interventions that should be reserved for higher-risk pregnancies." Some of those interventions include:

  • Inducing labor. The percentage of women whose labor was induced more than doubled between 1990 and 2005
  • Use of epidural painkillers, which might cause adverse effects, including rapid fetal heart rate and poor performance on newborn assessment tests
  • Delivery by Caesarean section, which is estimated to account for one-third of all U.S births in 2008, will far exceed the World Health Organization’s recommended national rate of 5 to 10 percent
  • Electronic fetal monitoring, unnecessarily adding to delivery costs
  • Rupturing membranes ("breaking the waters"), intending to hasten onset of labor
  • Episiotomy, which is often unnecessary

The study suggests that high-touch, low-cost, noninvasive measures are underused in today’s maternity care for healthy low-risk women. These include:

  • Prenatal vitamins
  • Use of midwife or family physician
  • Continuous presence of a companion for the mother during labor
  • Upright and side-lying positions during labor and delivery, which are associated with less severe pain than lying down on one’s back
  • Vaginal birth (VBAC) for most women who have had a previous Caesarean section
  • Early mother-baby skin-to-skin contact

They’ve also included a quiz to test the consumer’s knowledge about maternity care and debunk several misconceptions. Here are a few examples from the quiz.

An obstetrician will deliver better maternity care, overall, than a midwife or family doctor.

False. Studies show that the 8 percent to 9 percent of U.S. women who use midwives and the 6 to 7 percent who choose family physicians generally experienced just-as-good results as those who go to obstetricians. Those who used midwives also ended up with fewer technological interventions. For example, women who received midwifery care were less likely to experience induced labor, have their water broken for them, episiotomies, pain medications, intravenous fluids, and electronic fetal monitoring, and were more likely to give birth vaginally with no vacuum extraction or forceps, than similar women receiving medical care. Note that an obstetric specialist is best for the small proportion of women with serious health concerns.

Once you’ve had a C-section, it’s best to do it again.

False. Studies show that, as the number of a woman’s previous C-sections increased, so did the likelihood of harmful conditions, including: trouble getting pregnant again, problems delivering the placenta (placenta accreta), longer hospital stays, intensive-care (ICU) admission, hysterectomy, and blood transfusion.

Labor itself can benefit a newborn’s immunity.

True. When babies do not experience labor (if the mother has a C-section before entering into labor, for example), they fail to benefit from changes that help to clear fluid from their lungs. That clearance can protect against serious breathing problems outside the womb. Passage through the vagina might also increase the likelihood that the newborn’s intestines will be colonized with “good” bacteria after the sterile womb environment.

The buzz in the blogosphere about this is mostly positive. Critics of the current state of birth in the United States are happy to see Consumer Reports raising awareness about the need for change and bringing this information to mainstream society.

The blogger at Rain Garden says, "I feel encouraged that a non-profit organization like Consumer Reports is picking this up on their radar – it is just one more spark that may ignite change."

Susan at Hug the Monkey agrees and says, "It’s kind of amazing that a mainstream and respected organization like Consumer Reports has gotten behind natural childbirth. This must signal a shift in our society’s ideas."

Shay at Augeries of Innocence says, "This just goes to prove pretty much everything that is in The Business of Being Born. If you haven’t seen the DVD, I highly suggest you watch it, rent it or buy it. Even if you’re not wanting to go completely natural for your birth, it has a lot of helpful information on it and really lets you see how wonderful the childbirth process can be."

Yogi Barrett, a prenatal class instructor who blogs at Five Points Yoga, says,

Though women and their partners shouldn’t have to become “experts” on maternal and fetal care when they’re pregnant, it’s very helpful to remember that you are a paying consumer. I recommend finding a doctor or midwife who will take the time to answer the questions you have, and who will talk to you about your choices, options and alternatives. Too often, women come to my class and say something like, “My doctor won’t let me go past my due date. She’ll induce me if I do.” We have to remember that we have a responsibility in all of this to ask questions, and know that it’s *our* decision whether we have that test or procedure. We cannot abdicate responsibility for our bodies and our babies, even if a doctor/midwife presents a procedure as non-optional. The time to set up this dynamic is before you’re in labor – it’s difficult to have rational conversation and decision-making in the midst of active labor!

If you’re pregnant, remember that you need to have confidence in your provider. It’s never too late to switch providers if you’re unhappy. I’ve had students switch providers mere days before giving birth! But also remember, the most important person to trust is yourself, and your baby.

I couldn’t agree more. As a natural birth advocate myself, I think the fact that Consumer Reports posted this study is huge and another step in the right direction. Women want to be informed, they want to make conscious choices regarding their prenatal care and their birthing care for their sake and the sake of their babies. The more information women and their partners easily have access to, the more empowered they will be to make choices that are best for themselves and their babies.

Cross-posted at BlogHer.

A midwife’s labor of love

Ruth Lubic is a woman on a mission. At an age when most people would have already retired, she embarked on a new project – starting a midwife-operated birthing center in one of the poorest areas of Washington D.C. The infant mortality rate in D.C. is almost double the national average, yet after 800 babies in 8 years the center has “never lost a child in childbirth, and has cut the rate of premature births – the biggest risk factor for infant mortality – in half.”

Ruth Lubic and DC Birth Center babiesAt age 81 Ruth Lubic continues her labor of love. She believes that low-income women can really benefit from the care and prenatal education that midwives provide. The key to DC Birth Center‘s results of beating the odds she believes are, “Time [spent with the women], respect and treating people with dignity.” She thinks the national infant mortality rate is disgraceful, but believes midwives can help solve it and says that her results at the birthing center in poverty-stricken D.C. are proof that her ideas could work anywhere.

Rixa Freeze at The Truth Face of Birth wrote about Lubic in her post “Time, respect and dignity,” where Mother2Midwife commented, “This is what I’ve been trying to tell my girlfriends for years! Shouldn’t this tell us that even those of us who aren’t ‘low-income’ would have better outcomes with more face time with our care providers, and more education about pregnancy and birth?”

Over at Our Bodies, Ourselves Blog, Rachel wrote about Lubic’s CBS video interview (which you can watch here) and also shares this video interview where Lubic discusses her work with the center and talks with one of her clients about her prenatal experience at the center. There’s also a very informative article about Lubic in the Washington Post from last year.

Stacy at How Sweet It Is is thrilled to see a midwife “get some awesome media attention” and thanks CBS for a great story.

Back in August, Nikki at Kirsch Family Adventures who is expecting her first baby in January 2009, wrote about her decision to use a midwife and not an OB and shares some information about the Midwives Model of Care, the types of midwives in the U.S. and tries to clear up some misconceptions regarding midwives vs. OBs.

Over at Mama Speaks, Stephanie of Adventures in Babywearing (who, after three hospital births, gave birth to her fourth child at home with a midwife) recently posted a brief review of the book Pushed by Jennifer Block and believes it is a book that should be read by pretty much everyone because you can never be too informed about modern day maternity care. “Some things you won’t want to believe, but it is full of fact and truth. It’s just a very difficult pill to swallow. But Mamas, if you want what is best for you and your baby before and after birth, this is medicine you must open up and take.”

There is still a lot that needs to be done in the United States to improve the quality of prenatal care women and babies receive which is why I think it’s such an easy choice for Ruth Lubic to continue her work at the birthing center and congressional briefings. When it was suggested that at age 81 she could be retired, Lubic replied, “I’m not tired the first time! Much less retired.” If only we all had her dedication and passion. She truly is an inspiration.

* Photo credit: Washington Post

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

A new study including 151 mothers in Brisbane, Australia has found that first-time moms want more information about what life with a newborn will be like and says they often don’t feel prepared for the recovery period after giving birth and emotional toll of caring for a new baby.

A new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

“This study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

While I think there’s a definite benefit to educating expecting moms information on what life with a newborn may be like, (after all, knowledge is power), until every child comes with his/her own user’s manual, I think ultimately there’s only so much you can prepare for. Every woman’s birth experience is different, every child is different, and every new mother’s experience with her child is different. Each child has a unique temperament and will have different needs. Some will want to nurse every few hours, some will want to nurse much more frequently (or never let go of the boob). Every child’s sleep patterns will be different as well.

If you try to explain to a woman ahead of time how much a newborn will affect her life, is it realistic to think your words will have that much of an impact? Could it really help her prepare for what lies ahead? Is recovering from birth and caring for a newborn something anyone can really prepare for ahead of time (without having access to a full-time nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc.)? I feel like this is one of those things that a woman has to experience for herself to truly “get it.”

Before I had my first child I knew that once she entered the world nothing would be the same, that I would be sleep-deprived and have a baby nursing around the clock, but I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how different my life would be, how beyond tired I would be, how sore I would be from an (unnecessary and unwanted) episiotomy, nor just how much love I could have for one tiny person until it actually happened to me.

However, I do think that it’s important to equip first-time moms especially with information and resources that will help and support them in their first few weeks and months of life with a new baby. Instead of sending moms home from the hospital with a diaper bags full of a few diapers and a can of formula, perhaps hospitals should instead give women lists of names, numbers, websites and email addresses of people, places and organizations they can turn to if they need help. Organizations like La Leche League International – with dates and times of local meetings, phone numbers to certified lactation consultants, warning signs of postpartum depression and who to call if you or someone close to you suspects you have PPD, links to groups such as Attachment Parenting International, house cleaning services, numbers of postpartum doulas, local moms support groups like MOMS Club, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), etc. That is real information that new moms can use.

What do you think? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for life with a newborn? If not, do you think classes or a book could have helped? Do you have other suggestions?

Additional resources:


Cross-posted on BlogHer