Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Diddos for Kiddos Consignment Sale Spring 2010

For all of you Diddos for Kiddos fans - here is the spring sale information:

The spring sale is at the St. Paul Center (136 State Street) in Augusta. The sale dates are Saturday, April 17th, from 8am to 6pm and Sunday, April 18th, from 8am to 4pm. The Sunday sale is half-price on all items.

There is also a consignor sale on Friday, April 16th. For more information on consigning, or about the sale, click on this link to the pdf brochure.

On a personal note, I've been consigning at this sale for years. Not to make money, because most of my kids' stuff is handed down to my sister & her children. I consign just to get to the presale! And it is so worth it. I never come home with the same ratio clothes/toys - sometimes one kid gets way more than the other. But it works out perfectly for me to get birthday presents and spring/summer clothes at the Spring Sale.

I also make it a "girls night out" and go with a friend - each consignor gets an extra ticket to the sale - so we go to the sale and then out to dinner.

Maybe I'll see you there...

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins New Moms Group

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Give Aways!

The Motherwear Blog just had an incredible give-away week. It's not too late to add your comment and be entered into the contests. Wonderful books and cds, gift certificates and more!

Also, if you're looking for nursing clothes, I highly suggest you check out their clearance sale. I can't tell you how many wonderful items I've gotten from these sales for incredible prices. Some, I still wear now - a long black skirt, and pj shorts, for example.

And, from Progressive Pioneer, a blog I recently discovered: Giveaway: The Sitting Tree. Beautiful, beautiful!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mamas & Muffins: Baby Food

Last Monday was the Mamas & Muffins group, so I got to snuggle some sweet little babies and we all talked about baby food. If you couldn't make it, here's some of the information we discussed:

… there’s no rush …

Frank Greer, M.D., FAAP, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) Committee on Nutrition, says breastmilk is the optimal choice of nutrition for your baby for the first 12 months.

“The AAP Section on Breastfeeding, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, WHO, United Nations Children's Fund, and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life.”


… it’s a go …

Signs baby may be ready for solid food include:

  • baby sits upright
  • baby has lost tongue-thrust reflex
  • baby watches people eating & imitates
  • baby can pinch-grasp smaller objects
  • baby may have doubled(ish) birth weight
  • baby may be teething

    There is no definitive sign, I don't think. I used the examples of my children. I started them both with solid food at about 5.5 months, when they could both sit up, they seemed interested, and could swallow tiny spoonfuls of food. Madelyn was still a few pounds off from doubling her birth weight, but she was teething. Owen was still months from getting teeth, but had long since doubled his birth weight.

    In my opinion, the best way is to be guided by baby. If baby likes the food you offer, has no trouble swallowing it, and is happy at mealtimes, than it sounds like she's ready!


    … first foods …

    first: bananas, pears, unsweetened applesauce, avocado, sweet potatoes, rice cereal, peaches

    and then: yogurt, egg yolk, oatmeal, finely chopped chicken, beans, cheese, cheerios, baby biscuits

    I love the list of food suggestions in the Sears' Baby Book

    I also mentioned to the Mamas about the BRAT & anti-BRAT foods, because I learned this the hard way. Madelyn wouldn't take rice cereal, so this wasn't a problem for her, but after I'd been feeding Owen solids for a month or so (applesauce, bananas, a bit of rice cereal), he became wicked constipated. Poor bubby. I hadn't heard of the BRAT diet, that people sometimes eat if they're recovering from a stomach bug or something else that may have caused diarrhea. Basically, it's Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast - which all have binding-up properties. Turns out I was feeding a lot of those foods to Owen. Then someone (thankfully!) told me that P fruits tend to have the opposite effect, loosening things up: pears, peaches, plums, prunes. All of these are good first foods for babies too, so it became a matter of simply adjusting amounts depending on the desired effect. I'd mix pears and applesauce, or peaches and banana, for example.


    ... make your own…

    Making your own baby food can be easy. Roast vegetables like sweet potatoes or winter squash. Peel and use fruits like bananas, pears, and avocados. Mash with a fork, or food process. Scrape into ice cube trays; freeze; remove from the trays and store in freezer bags. Thaw the cubes in the refrigerator, or warm in the microwave. Check temperature and texture and feed to baby. Or if you want some real excitement, hand baby the spoon!

    It really is that simple.

    Once the baby was just a bit bigger, I'd spend an hour every few weeks - roast a few sweet potatoes; poach some skinless chicken breast; briefly cook a few peaches in a pot of boiling water (X the skin before you put them on so it slips off easily) and then puree it to the texture I wanted in the food processor. Put in the ice cube trays and I had baby meals for several weeks. Add to that the things I fork-mashed (banana, pear, avocado) or made to order (egg yolk) and some plain yogurt, and we were pretty much all set.

    One of the other nice things about making your own baby food (beyond knowing exactly what's in it!) is that you can feed your baby more local foods, and foods that are in season. When Owen was a baby I got a huge box of peaches, in season, and pureed/froze them until he was ready for them. When we picked apples, I froze plain applesauce for him. I know that isn't a huge motivator for some people (and he had plenty of non-local bananas and avocados!), but it was something I felt good about.


    … resources …

    The Z Recs Guide publishes information about harmful chemicals in common baby products.

    Also, a post I wrote about toxins in children's toys and products.

    All about Baby-Led Solids

    Foods to avoid, and why

    KidSafe Seafood

    Baby Safe feeder

    The Baby Book by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN

    Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron

    Feel free to leave any of your favorite baby feeding tips, recipes, links, cookbooks etc. in the comments!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Spring 2010 Diddos for Kiddos

    I don't have the flyer yet, but the spring dates for Diddos for Kiddos are Saturday, April 17 and Sunday, April 18th. I'll have all the details in the next month and will be sure to post the flyer as soon as I have it!

    For anyone wondering what this is all about, Diddos for Kiddos is a consignment sale held twice a year (fall and spring). People who consign clothes get two tickets to attend the consignor pre-sale on Friday. The Saturday sale is open to everyone, and the Sunday sale is half-price on all items.

    On a personal note, I've been consigning at this sale for years. Not to make money, because most of my kids' stuff is handed down to my sister & her children. I consign just to get to the presale! And it is so worth it. I never come home with the same ratio clothes/toys - sometimes one kid gets way more than the other. But it works out perfectly for me to get some of their fall/winter clothes and Christmas presents at the Fall sale, and to get summer/birthday clothes and toys at the spring sale.

    I also make it a "girls night out" and go with a friend - each consignor gets an extra ticket to the sale - so we go to the sale and then out to dinner.

    Stay tuned for more information!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Make Your Own Baby Sling

    For those of you interested in making your own baby slings, I have two links to free patterns!

    Here's a tutorial offering step-by-step directions and pictures on how to make a ring sling, like the Maya Wrap.

    And here's how to make a pouch, kind of like a Kangeroo Kozy Pouch. I found this link through Progressive Pioneer's post on making a pouch for her new baby.

    Happy Sewing!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Mamas & Muffins: Babywearing

    We had fun today playing with slings and other ways to "wear" babies. In case you wanted to come but couldn't: here's the handout with resources that I gave out, complete with pictures of Owen in the sling during his first year, from two days old to 13 months old. I have my ring sling (Maya Wrap) always available for demos, and I'll continue to have my sister's Kangeroo Kozy Pouch and Moby Wrap on loan for a few more months (she has a new baby due this summer!), so stop by another time if you want to check them out.

    And, because chocolate and pumpkin are so yummy together, and these are my favorite pumpkin muffins ever, here's the link to the muffins I made for the group.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Status Quo: Not Good Enough

    As usual, I enjoyed Peggy O'Mara's article in the most recent Mothering magazine, "The New Health Journalism: Challenging the Status Quo". What stood out to me most was this part, "Barbara Loe Fisher asked me if I have suffered for challenging the status quo. My job as a mother is to challenge the status quo . . . It is not my job to follow the current fashions, but to forge my own way, to develop my own personal ethic of parenting."

    The status quo (defined by dictionary.com as "the existing state or condition") is not good enough. Just yesterday I got an email link to an msnbc news article, "C-section rates around globe at 'epidemic' levels", which makes a perfect Exhibit A.
    "In the U.S., where C-sections are at an all-time high of 31 percent, the surgery is often performed on older expectant mothers, during multiple births or simply because patients request it or doctors fear malpractice lawsuits. A government panel warned against elective C-sections in 2006.

    “The relative safety of the operation leads people to think it’s as safe as vaginal birth,” said Dr. A. Metin Gulmezoglu, who co-authored the Asia report. “That’s unlikely to be the case.”

    Women undergoing C-sections that are not medically necessary are more likely to die or be admitted into intensive care units, require blood transfusions or encounter complications that lead to hysterectomies, the WHO study found."
    This example fits Peggy O'Mara's warning perfectly. She explains that,
    "As new parents, we believe that society will take care of us, has our best interests at heart, and will protect us. I want new parents to believe this, but health-care policy in the US is focused on eradicating rather than preventing disease. It is fear-based, interventionist, and compromised by economic considerations. At this time in history, assuming that society will protect you can be a dangerous belief."
    Personally, I do not want new parents to believe this. I want it to be true; but until it IS true, I wish opened eyes and hearts for all of us, so we can make the best choices possible for our families' health.

    Do you believe it is a mother's (or parent's) job to challenge the status quo? How have you challenged the status quo? What sources do you use to make your best informed choices for your families' health?

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    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Re-Using Coping Skills: Here is Your Life

    Back when I attended Bradley Method classes to prepare for my daughter's birth, I learned about the effect deep, calm breathing can have on my physical and emotional state. I practiced these new coping skills in hopes of using them to help me relax during birth. I'm happy to report that they were incredibly useful during Madelyn's birth back in 2002 and for Owen's in 2005.

    But their usefulness did not end there! Remember Guy Smiley on Sesame Street hosting the "Here is Your Life" segments - the one with the shoe? the one with the loaf of bread?

    Well let's play "Here is Your Life" today so I can show you how the coping skills I learned continue to be a very helpful resource, 3 times even, in just the past week!

    January 6th, 2010... I'm checking on my son after I put him to bed half an hour earlier, only to find that instead of being in bed, he is squatted down on the floor covering himself with his pillow. This is how he hides when he knows he's done something terribly naughty. I remove the pillow and ask him what the problem is... and he shows me that he bit the top off of a Christmas light, part of a strand that was decorating his room. Undoubtedly deep breathing on my part helped me to be calm, ask him if he had spit out the plastic and where was it etc... He was fine, I took down the lights, and I didn't yell (because really? who does that???) or laugh (because also: it was funny).

    January 4th, 2010... First cross-country skiing of the year, on our local high school trails. Usually great conditions, but this time if was very, very icy. We'd gotten about 3/4 of the way around when we stopped to rest, and somehow my ski slipped and I totally rolled my ankle and crashed into the snow. It hurt, and I had heard an ominous crunching noise as I fell. My body wanted to panic - my heart started racing, and I got that light-headed, blurry vision feeling that precedes passing out. But deep breathing got me through. I calmed my body, realized the crunch was probably the ski against the icy snow, and that my ankle was not actually broken and that I was, in fact, going to live! Even to ski out and finish the day's errands, though my ankle did end up swelling from a slight sprain that's already better...

    January 3rd, 2010... I'm returning from a visit to PA for the holidays, driving the normally nine-hour trip, just the kids and me. I get off to a good start, through NJ and up into NY. Close to Albany though, the wind is joined by snow (not "showers" as had been predicted by the weather.com) and the driving conditions deteriorate. It's terrible the last part of 87 and the beginning of 90 in NY, and really bad in the Berkshire Mts in Massachusetts. The other cars are also going slow, mostly, and I get behind someone going about 40mph, perfect for the conditions. Thankfully the children were very quiet & well-behaved, though they did wonder why I was going so slowly... just as they asked, a red car tried to pass me and we all watched as the car lost control, spun around, and ended up (I think) in the median. It was scary and added just that touch more of stress and panic to the already challenging driving conditions. You better believe that I was doing my deep breathing then. And listening to music (just like in labor) to help myself stay calm. The weather got better after the Berkshires, but by the time I got to NH and up into Maine, many hours later, I was exhausted, it was dark, and it was raining/sleeting/snowing again. As I drove, concentrating on keeping us safe and moving homeward, I kept reminding myself - that's another mile down: I don't have to do this mile again. Just like contractions - each one brings the baby closer, and each one down is one less to go. We ended up safe at home, where I fell into my husband's waiting arms and cried a few tears of relief & exhaustion, 11 hours from when we started in PA.

    So those are my examples in the past week, how deep breathing helped me keep my brain and body calm. I've used it many other times in the past too...

    Flying on Airplanes... I flew many times with my infant daughter, and later with my toddler daughter and infant son, by myself, on the way to PA. They were (thankfully!) short flights, but I am terrified of flying and I knew I had to do my best to remain calm so I could effectively parent, as well as to reduce the chance that I would freak out my kids. Because that would be so helpful - all of us crying in panic at the same time! The breathing helped incredibly, and those times I traveled with the children were some of the calmest trips I've had on airplanes, even though I had the additional stress of solo parenting while flying.

    Watching my Kids do Scary Things... Like the time my kids were climbing some very scary stairs to a local lookout tower. Safe enough in theory, but absolutely terrifying for me to watch. Someone else helped them, of course, while I walked away and did my calming breathing.

    Kids & Medical Problems... The time my son's finger got slammed in the door and looked terrible... the time I put him down for his nap fine and got him up to find his entire body covered in huge, puffy hives, including his neck. Deep breathing helped me stay calm and make effective decisions, while comforting him.

    Anger Management... Two kids, a husband, life. Anger happens. Deep breathing helps me avoid losing it (at least some of the time!) and saying or doing things I would regret later.

    In addition to using these techniques myself, I am teaching them to my children... when they are feeling angry or overwhelmed, or have been hurt, it's amazing to watch how well simple breathing in through the nose and out through the mouths, big belly breaths, helps them settle back down. It's a simple and extremely effective parenting technique.

    Anyone care to join me in sharing a "Here is Your Life" with coping skills story? Which were your favorite for birth? Which do you use now? How?

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Friday, September 18, 2009

    Circumcision Information

    I'm always on the lookout for information on circumcision that I would be comfortable passing on to parents. I think these .pdf documents offer useful information in a neutral, nonthreatening tone. If you work with pregnant women or are pregnant yourself and trying to come to a decision about circumcising, these documents might be helpful.

    Infant Circumcision: Some Considerations
    10 Reasons Not to Circumcise Your Baby Boy
    Myths & Facts About Circumcision
    Flawed African Circumcision Trials & US Circumcision Debate

    Any other good resources out there on circumcision that you'd like to share? Leave a note!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Rights

    Rixa at Stand and Deliver wrote a short but powerful post yesterday about "Iron in my Soul" that I encourage you to go read. I think the "iron in my soul" feeling is the same feeling that my sister & I talk about when we say something/someone brought out the "Mama Bear" in us. You know how you don't want to get between a mama bear & her cubs... we've all heard about the lengths a mama bear will go to if she believes her cubs are threatened.

    If you're wondering about a woman's rights are during the childbirth year, I encourage you to download a free copy of The Rights of the Childbearing Woman. Being informed is so important, and I hand out this document to every woman I work with. In some ways, it goes back to what Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer, authors of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, said: “If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any.”

    But. We parents are powerful - we have iron in our souls. We have a Mama Bear ready to be unleashed. A parent's intuition and the strength to act on the small voice that whispers (or shouts!) "something is wrong, something is wrong" is the most important, in my opinion.

    Being informed and confident in one's intuition is an extremely powerful combination!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Sunday, September 6, 2009

    Diddos for Kiddos Consignment Sale - October 2009

    For all of you Diddos for Kiddos fans - here is the fall sale information:

    The fall sale is at the St. Paul Center (136 State Street) in Augusta. The sale dates are Saturday, October 3rd, from 8am to 6pm and Sunday, October 4th, from 8am to 4pm. The Sunday sale is half-price on all items.

    There is also a consignor sale on Friday, October 2nd. For more information on consigning, or about the sale, click on this link to the pdf brochure.

    On a personal note, I've been consigning at this sale for years. Not to make money, because most of my kids' stuff is handed down to my sister & her children. I consign just to get to the presale! And it is so worth it. I never come home with the same ratio clothes/toys - sometimes one kid gets way more than the other. But it works out perfectly for me to get some of their fall/winter clothes and Christmas presents at the Fall sale.

    I also make it a "girls night out" and go with a friend - each consignor gets an extra ticket to the sale - so we go to the sale and then out to dinner.

    Maybe I'll see you there...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Classes, Moms Group & More!

    And... I'm back! We've had a wonderful summer in many ways, with terrific company, fun times at the ocean and out on the boat, and a few precious lazy days. Must work in more lazy days for next year! And respectfully request more sun - that was sorely lacking this year, but we surely did take advantage of what we got, going to the ocean and lake beaches, whenever there was a sunny and hot (or even warm-ish!) day. Like today in fact, and yesterday! Now I'm getting ready to enjoy fall, and another school year with the children, who are attending 3-day a week nursery school and homeschooling. Fun times!

    MAMAS AND MUFFINS: NEW MOMS GROUP!
    I've changed times and format for the moms group... and it has a new name: Mamas and Muffins. It's still free, of course, and open to all new mamas and their pre-crawling babies. I invite all mamas and their "little muffins" ;-) to drop in anytime from 9 to 10am, have a muffin and some tea, and enjoy chatting with other new moms. From 10am to 11, there will be time for women to share their experiences, ask questions & get support.

    Groups will be held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month, from 9-11am at the Winthrop United Methodist Church (58 Main Street in Winthrop), upstairs in the nursery. Use the side Wonder Awhile Nursery School entrance. Signs will be posted.

    September 21st, 2009
    October 5th & 19th, 2009
    November 2nd & 16th, 2009
    December 7th & 21st, 2009

    BIRTHING YOUR BABY CLASSES
    I am scheduling group and private classes for this fall. If you're expecting your baby in October, November, December, or January, give me a call at 512-2627 or email me!

    CLASSES THROUGH MONMOUTH/WINTHROP ADULT EDUCATION
    Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class

    An introduction to pregnancy, with activities and discussion on nutrition, exercise, and self-care for a healthy, comfortable pregnancy as well as tips on choosing a care provider and putting together a supportive birth team. Enrollment is limited to women and their partners who are trying to conceive, or who are less than twenty weeks pregnant.

    Thursday, September 24th, 6-9pm
    Winthrop Middle School Library
    Fee: $20/couple

    To register, contact the Winthrop Adult Learning Center from 8-2:30 Monday thru Thursday at 377-2265 or Friday 8-10am.

    Coping Strategies for Labor and Birth

    Introduces a wide variety of coping strategies for labor and birth, including breathing, relaxation, massage, visualization, position change, and water therapy. Some practice time and a short video will help you start thinking about which strategies might work best for you. This class will also be helpful for the birth partner, providing lots of concrete ideas of how to be supportive during labor and birth. Enrollment is limited to women who are in their second or third trimester. Participants are encouraged to bring a support person.

    Monday, November 9th, 6-9pm
    Winthrop Middle School Library
    Fee: $20/couple

    To register, contact the Winthrop Adult Learning Center from 8-2:30 Monday thru Thursday at 377-2265 or Friday 8-10am.

    UPCOMING!
    I am very excited to be working on a Pregnancy Wellness Fair - if you support women during the childbearing year (pregnancy, birth, postpartum) and are looking for ways to share your expertise, please contact me! I am especially interested in connecting more women with "outside the doctor's office" services with benefits that may not be well-known, like chiropractic care, massage therapy, accupuncture, doulas, and more. If you're pregnant, or trying to conceive, check back for more details!

    I am also planning a film screening or two for the fall & winter months!


    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Wisdom from Mothering

    Last weekend, I finished teaching two postpartum/baby classes. In this last class, we review birth, and we talk again about preparing for birth by learning about the options, and practicing relaxation techniques, and communicating preferences and then letting go during the birth - being flexible, taking it one contraction at a time: birthing in the moment. We also talk all about the postpartum period, what commonly happens physically and emotionally, preparing as a couple, and lots of discussion and demonstrations about baby care.

    One thing I always demo and have mom & dad practice is swaddling. I tell about how I didn't swaddle my daughter because she cried the couple of times I tried it, and as a first-time parent, I let it go. After reading more, and seeing how much swaddling helped my second-born, I realize just how much swaddling would have probably helped my daughter, who is highly sensitive and easily over-stimulated. I mention all this briefly in class, part to underline how though not all babies like the act of being swaddled, it might still be worth doing & seeing if they like it once it's done! And I mention it because it hints at the fact that parenting is about learning, and we don't always know what will help, and sometimes we do something we wish we hadn't, or fail to do something we wish we had. As parents, we're still humans, and as anyone can tell you, humans aren't perfect! So there is no perfect parent.

    Two articles in Mothering magazine's weekly e-newsletter (which I highly recommend) recognize the fact that we are works in progress as parents. Here's an excerpt from "Breaking Free of Mother-Guilt":
    Our society in general, and the Mothering community in particular, has a problem: How can we advocate for birthing and parenting practices that have proven benefits without making parents who have not achieved them feel denigrated? How, for example, do we discuss the overuse of cesarean delivery without making the one-fifth to one-quarter of us who've had one feel bad, or promote extended breastfeeding without seeming to blame women who haven't been able to do it?

    I suggest that the answer lies in achieving a certain perspective. This perspective starts from the premise that each of us does the best she can—given the particulars of our knowledge base, resources, support system, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves (and which we often cannot fully control). No one should ever allow herself to feel judged inadequate for doing the best she could, or the best she knew at the time of choosing. But we must also note that because our knowledge base is one of the keys in our decision-making process, it is absolutely appropriate that every effort be made to disseminate good information as widely as possible—never to blame people for past choices or idiosyncratic situations, but to get good facts out to whoever needs and can use them.

    Furthermore, and crucially, those who promote such information must recognize that while such choices as excellent prenatal nutrition, natural birthing, extended breastfeeding, avoiding circumcision, cosleeping, and so on are documentably ideal for most families most of the time, there sometimes really are exceptions, limits on information, and limits on what is possible.
    Ahh... circumstances, limited knowledge (for however much we know, there's still plenty we don't know!), and real life challenges... it can be hard to accept that even our very, very best may not feel good enough. Parenting regrets are hard, very, very hard. The other article I highly recommend, "Regrets", by Peggy O'Mara, suggests a lovely metaphor for how to handle regrets productively:
    A bad experience is like a dive for buried treasure. There is a wreck. Someone has to figure out what happened and remember what to do the next time. Everyone hopes to find the treasure hidden in the wreck, even though many doubt that it's there at all. Like a bad experience, once we mine our regrets for information about what we might have done differently, and what we might do if the same circumstances arise again, we've already discovered a lot of treasure. When the time is right, we can then let the experience go.
    Parenting is definitely the hardest job I've ever had to do - full of sacrifice and the occasional bout of performance anxiety. But on the other hand, I've never been so motivated to do a job well, by the sweet, grateful smile of a snuggled child, by a look of joy & wonder at something new, by a question that shows how deeply my child is participating in life. And, I've certainly never been so well-rewarded.



    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    HeartString

    It can be such a challenge to purchase products and toys for infants - most of us want items that are safe, useful, and, if possible, aesthetically pleasing.

    I received an email a few months ago about a new baby product called the HeartString Baby's Companion. I requested one so I could show my clients and share it with you because I hadn't seen anything like it before. I handed it to a six-month old at one of my New Moms Circle support groups, and she loved it - turning it over and over in her hands and then gumming it for quite a while.

    I think new babies would enjoy looking at it too. I remember back to nursing my infants, and as much as I usually loved their kneading little fists, sometimes their pinchy little nails hurt as they patted and prodded me. It would have been nice to have something like this necklace as a distraction!

    More information from the HeartStrings website:
    HeartString Baby’s Companion evolved from a simple concept: Babies like to tug and chew on anything they can touch. In a world full of hazards (keys, metal jewelry, glasses, watches etc.), we designed HeartString to be a touchable, tuggable product for your baby and a wearable accessory for you. With many colours from which to choose, our safe and non-toxic product can be used as a breastfeeding and parenting aid that includes Dad, siblings and grandparents!

    HeartString Baby's CompanionTM is a versatile accessory used by breastfeeding moms and concerned infant caregivers. Initially conceived to be a purposeful distraction while bottle feeding, breastfeeding or holding a baby, the HeartString Companions has also been designed to support bonding, ease caregiver transfers and include a male figure. With the infant in mind, the HeartString Companions is safe, non-toxic and unbreakable, acting as a tactile and visual aid to soothe baby and to encourage cognitive development.
    Also important to know that the HeartString:
  • Does NOT contain lead, PVC, phalates, BPA, latex of any known harmful materials.
  • Materials and products are sourced and made in North America.
  • Personally, I think this would be a fun add-on baby shower gift, maybe even as the package decoration. I'm excited to add it to my collection of "show and tell" products (sling, cloth diapers, breast pump) for the postpartum class.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Help from Good Guide

    I know I'm not the only one who is sometimes overwhelmed by the number of choices available at grocery stores, health food stores, and pharmacies. Not to mention online options! For example, I would stand in front of the rows of bread, reading labels - which ones were 100% whole grain? which had no HFCS? how much protein per slice? About six months ago, I decided it would just be easier to bake my own bread, which I've been doing since. So that solved that decision - but what about body wash for the kids? dishwashing soap? etc & etc!!!

    Well, the Mothering e-newsletter included a link to Good Guide this week and wow, let me tell you - I'm impressed. It rates products on a variety of scales, including the product's effectiveness, its ingredients, and how the company produces it. It also has links to buying products online.

    If you find yourself picking up product after product to read labels, this website might simplify the process for you.

    If you do go and look, could you please leave a comment about the products you looked up & what you learned? The only thing about this new site is it seems like it could be a little addictive! Maybe we could save each other some time if we compiled some information here...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Essentials?

    I've really been enjoying a series of posts at Eco Child's Play, a website the supports and promotes "Green Parenting for Non-toxic, Healthy Homes".

    The latest post in this series is Baby Essentials That Aren't: Baby Food, by Heather Dunham. Other "essentials" discussed in previous posts include the crib, the bucket carseat, the stroller, diapers, tub, and brain boosters.

    I thought these articles were fascinating and well-written, and they included lots of resources to learn more. This series is a great antidote to all the commercialism that swirls around pregnancy and postpartum parenting.

    It's a crazy week here this week and I've been up many, many times the past two nights with a dog who is having digestive issues and needs to go outside every hour or two. Good times. So, this is going to be a week of link posts! Hope you enjoy!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Saturday, March 7, 2009

    Diddos for Kiddos Consignment Sale - May 2009

    For all of you Diddos for Kiddos fans - here is the spring information:

    The spring sale is at the St. Paul Center (136 State Street) in Augusta. The sale dates are Saturday, May 2nd, from 8am to 6pm and Sunday, May 3rd, from 8am to 4pm. The Sunday sale is half-price on all items.

    There is also a consignor sale on Friday, May 1st. For more information on consigning, or about the sale, click on this link to the pdf brochure.

    On a personal note, I've been consigning at this sale for years. Not to make money, because most of my kids' stuff is handed down to my sister & her children. I consign just to get to the presale! And it is so worth it. I never come home with the same ratio clothes/toys - sometimes one kid gets way more than the other. But it works out perfectly for me to get some of their spring/summer clothes and birthday presents (May & June birthdays) at the Spring sale, and some of their fall/winter clothes and Christmas presents at the Fall sale.

    I also make it a "girls night out" and go with a friend - each consignor gets an extra ticket to the sale - so we go to the sale and then out to dinner.

    Maybe I'll see you there...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Qualifications

    I posted the "You Get Your Hair Done by a Doctor?" Sweet Surprise advertisement yesterday, soliciting comments.

    Kathy, of Woman to Woman Childbirth Education, commented
    "Y'know, I read something recently that said something along the lines of HFCS and sugar being "nearly identical" or "almost chemically identical." Hmm, well, oxytocin and Pitocin are exactly identical... but one crosses into the brain and makes the mother feel good and has benefits for the baby, while the other just makes her uterus contract and slams her baby. So, maybe they're not as "identical" as they thought, hmm? :-)".
    I hadn't even thought of that! But I do think it's a very interesting thought, and it does connect the ad with birth... which was what I thought about the first time I saw it. It totally raised my hackles because it shows a woman elevating her doctor as the only credible expert. The way I read the ad, it simultaneously elevates the doctor, puts down the hairdresser, and attempts to make the woman who considered her hairdresser's opinion seem foolish.

    I realize that it is no small thing to go through the education and training necessary to become a medical doctor. This eduction, training, and practice should certainly lend weight to a doctor's opinion. However, I also believe that good information is usually available to all intelligent people who take the time to seek and evaluate it. Even if they're "just" hairdressers... or everyday moms... or construction workers etc. & etc. I truly resent the insinuation that the hairdresser has nothing of value to add to the conversation.

    Especially because the advertisement was created by Sweet Surprise, according to their website titled "High Fructose Corn Syrup Health and Diet Facts". Facts according to whom?? Facts according to the Corn Refiner's Association, that's who:
    "The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is the national trade association representing the corn refining (wet milling) industry of the United States. CRA and its predecessors have served this important segment of American agribusiness since 1913. Corn refiners manufacture sweeteners, ethanol, starch, bioproducts, corn oil, and feed products from corn components such as starch, oil, protein, and fiber."
    Not that they might have a stake in it, or anything...

    And those are the thoughts I applied in my head to birth: don't devalue the laywoman who has made it her business to learn about birth, just because she doesn't have a medical degree; and don't underestimate the strength with which people will fight to keep their power, and the dollars that come with it.

    In case you were expecting this post to actually be about high fructose corn syrup, here is a sampling of the interesting links I found:

    The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup explains the process of making high fructose corn syrup, as well as how the production of high fructose corn syrup fits into the big picture of big farm and food conglomerates:
    "The development of the HFCS process came at an opportune time for corn growers. Refinements of the partial hydrogenation process had made it possible to get better shortenings and margarines out of soybeans than corn. HFCS took up the slack as demand for corn oil margarine declined. Lysine, an amino acid, can be produced from the corn residue after the glucose is removed. This is the modus operandi of the food conglomerates--break down commodities into their basic components and then put them back together again as processed food."
    Here's what the Mayo Clinic says about HFCS, including that
    "research has yielded conflicting results about the effects of high-fructose corn syrup. For example, various early studies showed an association between increased consumption of sweetened beverages (many of which contained high-fructose corn syrup) and obesity. But recent research — some of which is supported by the beverage industry — suggests that high-fructose corn syrup isn't intrinsically less healthy than other sweeteners, nor is it the root cause of obesity."
    Maybe you've heard about mercury in high fructose corn syrup? You can read more information on Web MD, including a list of the 17 products that tested positive for mercury.

    The Washington Post also reported on mercury and HFCS, in "Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury." Here is part of that article which I found interesting,
    "HFCS has replaced sugar as the sweetener in many beverages and foods such as breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurts, soups and condiments. 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."
    Okay, that just grosses me out: there's HFCS in lunch meat?? The article goes on,
    "Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply," the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement."
    About a year ago, the Washington Post published a very informative article about the impact of HFCS on health - the health of our planet, "High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Not So Sweet for the Planet."

    Apparently I'm not the only one insulted by the "Sweet Surprise" advertisements. Marion Nestle, author of the Food Polictics blog, writes that
    "OK, so lots of people think HFCS is the new trans-fat. It isn’t, but is insulting your intelligence an effective way to deal with that concern? It’s hard to know what on the website is most offensive: the videos of dumb people being condescended to by friends who think they know better (and what’s up with the race and gender combinations?), the slogans (“HFCS has no artificial ingredients and is the same as table sugar”), the quiz questions (“which of the following sweeteners is considered a natural food ingredient: HFCS, honey, sugar, or all of the above”), or the take home message: “As registered dietitians recommend, keep enjoying the foods you love, just do it in moderation.”"
    Nestle continues:
    "Let’s agree that HFCS has an enormous public relations problem and is widely misunderstood. Biochemically, it is about the same as table sugar (both have about the same amount of fructose and calories), but it is in everything and Americans eat a lot of it—nearly 60 pounds per capita in 2006, just a bit less than pounds of table sugar. HFCS is not a poison, but eating less of any kind of sugar is a good idea these days and anything that promotes eating more is not."
    "Ad Wars: Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Really Good for You?" was published in Time Magazine, and brings up what I believe is one of the most important points.
    "The commercials claim that just like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup isn't unhealthy when consumed in moderation. But it's hard to know exactly how much of it we're actually consuming because it shows up in so many unexpected foods. "It was in my children's vitamins!" said Elise Mackin. Because high-fructose corn syrup extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it's added to a staggering range of items, including fruity yogurts, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you're making a concerted effort to avoid it, it's pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation. "We did a consumers survey," says Doug Radi of Boulder, Colo., based Rudi's Organic Breads, "and less than 25% of them realized that high-fructose corn syrup is commonly used in bread.""
    Yes, bread! For the past thirteen years or so that I've been buying my own bread, I've almost always chosen whole-grain breads - partially for taste, and partially for nutrition. A while back, I realized that seeing "made with whole grains" wasn't a good indication of nutrition, because bread that was mostly processed flour could still be labeled that way. So I got all vigilant about it, and only bought breads that listed a whole grain flour first, or that were labeled as 100% whole grains. Country Kitchen, which is a local company, made one of the best-tasting, most-affordable 100% whole wheat breads, so I had been buying that for years. Then the whole HFCS thing came up. And that's when I threw in the towel and became my own bread baker.

    That's right: I make two loaves every week and half or so, and I get to know exactly what's in it. I have a thirty-year old stand mixer that makes it easy - takes about fifteen minutes to make the dough and then only a few more minutes to punch it down, shape it, and slide it into the oven. I've even learned to cut the thin & straight slices!

    If you're interested in becoming your own bread baker, here are a few homemade bread recipes that are easy and nutritious. They're the ones I make over & over again...

    Light Wheat Bread
    from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

    2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
    1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz.) whole-wheat flour
    1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) granulated sugar or honey
    1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz.) salt
    3 tablespoons (1 oz.) powdered milk*
    1 1/2 teaspoons (.17 oz.) instant yeast
    2 tablespoons (1 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) water, at room temperature

    1. Stir together the high-gluten flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, powdered milk, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the shortening, honey (if using), and water. Stir (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff and tough.

    2. Sprinkle high-gluten or whole-wheat flour on the counter, and transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading should take about 10 minutes (6 minutes by machine). The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

    3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

    4. Remove the dough from the bowl and press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan; the ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.

    5. Proof at room temperature for approximately 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lip of the pan.

    6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.

    7. Place the bread pan on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished loaf should register 190 degrees F in the center, be golden brown on the top and the sides, and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

    8. When the bread is finished baking, remove it immediately from the loaf pan and cool it on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours (yeah, good luck with that), before slicing or serving.

    Makes one 2-lb. loaf

    My Mom's NO-KNEAD OATMEAL BREAD

    2pkgs (or equivalent) active dry yeast
    1 1/2 C boiling water
    1C quick cooking oats (I use regular oats)
    1/2C molasses
    1/3C butter
    1T salt
    6 1/4C white flour (I do 3C whole wheat; 3C-ish white)
    2 slightly beaten eggs

    Soften yeast in 1/2C warm water. In a large bowl, combine the 1.5C boiling water, the oats, molasses, butter and salt; cool to lukewarm. Stir in 2C of the flour; add eggs; beat well. Stir in the softened yeast; beat well.

    Add remaining flour, 2C at a time, mixing vigorously after each addition, to make moderately stiff dough. Beat vigorously til smooth, about 10 minutes. Grease top lightly. Cover tightly; place in refrigerator at least 2 hrs or overnight.

    Turn out on well-floured surface; shape into 2laves. Place in 8.5 x 4.5" loaf pans. Cover; let rise in warm place until double 1-2hrs. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

    Makes 2 loaves

    And Whole Wheat Bread with Wheat Germ and Rye
    from Cook's Illustrated - The New Best Recipe Cookbook

    2 1/3 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
    1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
    1/4 cup honey
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    2 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1/4 C rye flour
    1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
    3 cups whole-wheat flour
    2 3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

    1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the water, yeast, honey, butter, and salt with a spatula mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, and 1 cup each of the whole-wheat and all-purpose flours.

    2. Add the remaining whole-wheat and all- purpose flours, attach the dough hook, and knead at low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead just long enough to make sure that the dough is soft and smooth, about 30 seconds.

    Note on hand kneading: Mixing the water, yeast, honey, butter, salt, rye flour, and wheat germ in a large mixing bowl. Mix 2 3/4 cups of the whole- wheat flour and the all-purpose flour in a separate bowl, reserving 1/4 cup of the whole-wheat flour. Add 4 cups of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients; beat with a wooden spoon 5 minutes. Beat in another 1 1/2 cups of the flour mixture to make a thick dough. Turn the dough onto a work surface that has been sprinkled with some of the reserved flour. Knead, adding only as much of the remaining flour as necessary to form a soft, elastic dough, about 5 minutes. Continue with step 3.

    3. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

    4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Gently press each piece into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side of the dough facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing down to make sure that the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place each cylinder of dough in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, seam-side down and pressing the dough gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover the shaped dough; let rise until almost doubled in volume, to 30 minutes.

    5. Bake until an instant thermometer inserted at an angle from the shot end just above the pan rim reads 205 degrees, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer the bread immediately from the baking pans to wire racks; cool to room temperature.

    Makes two loaves.

    Do you have a favorite bread recipe? A story about reading the label & seeing HFCS listed in an unlikely-seeming food? An advertisement that aggravates you? Leave a comment & add to the conversation...

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Tuesday, March 3, 2009

    Preserving Memories

    I've admitted before that I wish I'd been more faithful in keeping a pregnancy journal with thoughts and especially photographs from my two pregnancies. Once I started a family blog, and made a commitment to keeping it up-to-date for our long-distance family members, I've done a lot better. And someday (when we have more money!), I have a system I want to implement with binders and photo pages and the photos I've stored in Snapfish. It turns out that, although I bought and was given a bunch of scrapbook supplies, I'm not really a scrapbooker. And that's okay, right? Right.

    Anyway, I've come across some really cool ideas lately that appeal to me even though I'm not a scrapbooker, and I want to be sure to pass them on to you. These are the kind of easy projects I wish I had done:

    Scrapbooking Your Belly Shots and Scrapbooking Baby's First 12 Months, both from Adventures in Diapering.

    If you want video inspiration, here is a video from Mothering Media, showing how one mom turned her pregnant belly into a work of art.

    If you are a scrapbooker, here is the site for our local scrapbooking guru, Cheryl Freye. I especially want to highlight the FREE Baby & Toddler Webinarscoming up over the next two weeks - what a fantastic opportunity to learn more about preserving your memories.

    And finally, a professional archivist's take on digital storage, in case you, like me, are holding on to cd's full of photos. Because as Cheryl wrote in her email, "You'll never reminisce over your zip drive .......albums make the memory."

    If you have want to share any of your ideas on how to preserve memories, leave a comment!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
    New Mothers Support Circle

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    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    Postpartum Life: True or False?

    In honor of the new postpartum support group I'm facilitating, the New Mother's Support Circle, I'm going to be doing a series of posts on postpartum life.

    Here's how the media portrays postpartum life: glowing new mom (who is also clean, thin, wearing clean clothes, relaxed, and looking not-exhausted) holding peacefully sleeping (and also clean! wearing white!!) newborn.



    I'm not saying that it's not a gorgeous picture - it is. And there may be some moments like that during the babymoon. But this picture, also beautiful, is a whole lot more realistic:



    What's the harm in fantasizing about exhibit A? I love this quote from Jennifer Louden's Pregnant Woman's Comfort Book, and think it sums up a lot about why the postpartum period can be a hard one for many women:
    "It is the lack of permission to feel conflicted, inadequate, sad, angry, bored, or irritable as well as grateful, rapturous, tingling with life, and intoxicated with love that makes the postpartum period unnecessarily difficult and lonely".
    So for what it's worth: here's permission - and encouragement! - to come share what's wonderful as well as what's really hard with other new moms this Thursday!

    And if you can't join us in person, leave a comment! What's been one of the most beautiful moments during your babymoon period? What's been one of the most challenging?

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    More on Vitamins: Vitamin D & DHA in Formula

    In my last post on vitamins, I included the hugely informative link to Navelgazing Midwife's post on Vitamin D & It's Role in Women and Children.

    I want to add a link to a New York Times article I read that summarizes a study done at Boston University that concluded that Vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of an emergency cesarean.
    "The researchers studied 253 births at a Boston hospital from 2005 to 2007. After controlling for other variables, the scientists found that women with low blood levels of vitamin D were almost four times as likely to have an emergency C-section as those with normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with muscle weakness and high blood pressure, which might help explain the finding."
    I would be interested to know if these cesareans were truly emergency, and even more importantly, what specific, medical reason for the cesarean birth was given.

    I also wanted to offer this link to the Motherwear blog post on Vitamin D. There is great information on breastmilk and Vitamin D in the two links provided in this post. And, there is interesting discussion in the comments.

    Finally, when I wrote the post on Omega-3's during pregnancy, I wasn't thinking about formula, and the attempts on the part of formula-makers to manipulate mothers into buying DHA-"enhanced" formula.

    I believe that adding DHA/ARA is a marketing ploy made to manipulate mothers into buying a more expensive product that contains additives of questionable value. As someone who believes in the inherent superiority of breastmilk for infants, I also would hate to think that any mother ever gives up on nursing thinking that DHA/ARA formula is "close enough" to human milk - that the DHA/ARA confers some magic benefits. I am not anti-formula - there are times when it is necessary; however, I am firmly against the manipulative scare tactics employed by many companies marketing to mothers.

    According to an article in Mothering's May/June 2008 magazine, "test results have shown the additives have negligible positive effects on infant development. The FDA's initial analysis of the additives reached no determination of their safety, while noting that some studies reported unexpected deaths among infants who have been fed DHA/ARA formula" and that there have been an array of symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) reported by parents and doctors that "disappeared when the infants were switched to a non DHA/ARA formula".

    To read more about DHA/ARA in formula, read the .pdf "Replacing Mother: Imitating Breastmilk in the Laboratory".

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Vaccine Links

    I have several interesting links to share regarding vaccines.

    This first one is a link to a study, "Pediatric Vaccines Influence Primate Behavior", regarding the use of thimerosol and vaccines. The study's conclusion:
    "This animal model, which examines for the first time, behavioral, functional, and neuromorphometric consequences of the childhood vaccine regimen, mimics certain neurological abnormalities of autism. The findings raise important safety issues while providing a potential model for examining aspects of causation and disease pathogenesis in acquired disorders of behavior and development."
    Keep in mind that thimerosol has been phased out of many vaccines (excepting the flu vaccine, to my knowledge). But I still found this interesting, especially from a standpoint that this information remains widely unacknowledged by the medical community.

    After I had already written this post and set it to publish, I received a link to this article, "Sharp Rise in Autism is Real", which debunks the myth that real autism rates have not changed, but have only seemed to have increased due to earlier and better reporting.
    "Many experts contend that other factors account for the increase, such as greater awareness among parents and pediatricians, and therefore a greater likelihood of a diagnosis.

    But that accounts for only a fraction of the more than 600 percent jump, said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, whose work was published this month in the journal Epidemiology. . .

    Hertz-Picciotto and her colleague, Lora Delwiche, found that less than 10 percent of the estimated increase could be attributed to the inclusion -- after 1993 -- of milder forms of autism, and about 4 percent of the increase was attributed to a trend toward earlier diagnosis. . .

    Many scientists think people have a genetic predisposition to autism that is triggered by some environmental factor. Hertz-Picciotto believes it's probably multiple genetic susceptibilities and more than one environmental trigger. . .

    Stanley Swartz, an autism researcher and professor of special education at Cal State San Bernardino, said it will be hard to get a consensus on causes for the increase.

    'The problem is we're operating almost completely on theories," he said. "What we have to consider is that this is not a single syndrome with a single cause. ... There's more going on than just one thing because you do see such a wide variety of cases of autism.'"
    Again, I'm curious what, if anything, will come of this study and how well the findings will be publicized by mainstream media.

    I read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Children's Vaccinations to help my family decide about vaccinations. There are other good books out there, I'm sure. The Sears' recently added The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child to their well-respected library, but I haven't read it yet. Dr. Bob Sears has also written an interesting article published in the Jan/Feb 2008 Mothering magazine, "Is Aluminum the New Thimerasol?".

    Do you have any recommendations for books or websites on this issue? Michelle - didn't you have a book sent to you for free? Can you include info on it in the comments?

    Finally, there is a link on the Dr. Sears site that lists Vaccine-Friendly Doctors, those doctors "who are friendly toward parents who want help with the vaccine decision or who want to delay or decline vaccines. The doctors listed here will have read, or be familiar with, my book and contacted me to have their practice listed here as a place such patients can come and feel welcome."

    Unfortunately, there are no Maine doctors mentioned. Anyone have good experiences with doctors re: delaying or declining vaccinations or selectively vaccinating? Leave a comment if you can recommend someone!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Friday, December 12, 2008

    Ignorance Meets Knowledge: Extended Breastfeeding

    posted by Christina Kennedy at 0 Comments

    Tuesday, December 9, 2008

    What If?

    In an email on a list I read, the fabulously wise childbirth educator and doula, Joni Nichols, recommends that pregnant women "Choose a care provider who is congruent with the kind of birth you want. Everyone talks about the 'work' of labor. The real 'work' is the election of the caregiver".

    And I read a terrific blog entry by Monica Dux this week, "Homework is the Mother of Prevention". Here is an excerpt:
    "There seems to be a widespread culture of passivity when it comes to labour. Many expecting mothers do dedicate an enormous amount of time and effort to preparation, yet, in my experience, there are just as many who refuse to do adequate homework, preferring to sit back and see how things develop. It's not that these women are unsure about what sort of labour they'd like to have (almost always an uncomplicated vaginal delivery). They've simply decided that "waiting and seeing" is the only realistic approach. Why bother committing to a detailed birth plan when it will probably go wrong anyway? Perhaps other wait-and-seers are simply in denial, preferring not to think about an experience that is understandably terrifying. The end result is that they approach the business of labour with less preparation than they would bring to buying a new car."
    It's a great post, and I highly suggest clicking the link to read it!

    Many pregnant women, and their partners, spend a certain amount of time "preparing" for their new baby's arrival - especially if it is their first baby. There are the clothes to buy; the car seat and the stroller and the crib to pick out and set up and figure out; the fun yet overwhelming task of registering at various stores and websites. The room needs to be painted... decorated... organized. Feeding and diapering and bathing supplies. Toys.

    What if most women put a fraction of the energy that they dedicate to amassing and arranging baby stuff into choosing a care provider and place to give birth, and discussing their options with that care provider? What if women talked - offered each other important, real information - about care providers and birth places - like we give each other useful information about our favorite baby toy or supply? Why don't more women stay away from A Baby Story and other birth dramas that are unrealistic and emergency-filled?

    I think there would be big changes in birth if women insisted on accurate information about care providers and birth in general, especially if they shared what they learned with each other.

    If women had access to information about doctors Cesarean birth rates AND information about the risks of Cesarean births, I think we would see changes. If women knew the benefits of laboring (and/or birthing) in water AND which birth places had labor and birth tubs, I think we would see changes. If women had accurate information about CPM midwives and homebirth, I think we would see changes.

    Unfortunately, at this point, what I see are lots of inaccuracies - about the safety of homebirth, for example, or about the risks of Cesarean births. There are lots of barriers to making informed choices about doctors and hospitals: inaccurate information; vague answers; insurance issues. I think that for many women, it's just psychologically easier to do what "everyone" else does - to use the same care provider, at the same hospital, to read What to Expect When You're Expecting and watch A Baby Story on television.

    Preparing to bring baby home is very exciting - thinking about dressing her or getting his room ready can be a lot of fun. This type of preparation, and the daydreams of snuggling that sweet little baby, are obviously important and wonderful.

    But just as important is the responsibility to learn about care provider and birth place options... and then using what we learn to interview doctors and midwives and visit hospitals and birth centers. This work may not be as appealing. It may sometimes be challenging or uncomfortable. But in the long run, the time spent choosing a care provider is going to be a lot more influential in our lives as new parents than choosing a nursery theme or picking out a going-home outfit.

    What do you think could change the balance of how women prepare for birth? I'm hoping The Birth Survey will help: results of the surveys are due out nationwide in Spring 2009. I can't wait to read about women's experiences in Central Maine and to be able to offer this resource to clients.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Thursday, December 4, 2008

    Vitamins: A Few Additional Resources

    Over the past several weeks, I've written posts about folic acid, calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as how to choose a prenatal vitamin.

    To close this series of blog entries, here are some additional links on prenatal nutrition:

  • Navalgazing Midwife's very informative post on Vitamin D & Its Role in Women and Children

  • A Good Pregnancy Diet according to Dr. Tom Brewer

  • Excellent articles on prenatal nutrition from the Drs. Sears

  • NutritionData.com offers lots of useful information on particular food items (processed and unprocessed) by typing in a food into the "enter food name" field at the top of the page. The site also has a Nutrient Search tool that allows you to select a particular nutrient and then view their list of foods that contain high amounts of the selected nutrient.

    If you can recommend any particularly useful or interesting books or websites on prenatal nutrition, please leave them in the comments!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Monday, December 1, 2008

    In a recent New York Times article, "Scorpios Get More Asthma," the author suggests reasons why babies born in the fall are prone to asthma: the New England Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine has reported that babies born in the fall have a 30% increased risk of developing asthma. The author goes on to write that:
    "As for how a baby is born, Swiss researchers are reporting in the journal Thorax this month that a Caesarean delivery is linked to a much higher risk for asthma compared with babies born vaginally.

    In a study of nearly 3,000 children, the researchers found that 12 percent had been given a diagnosis of asthma by age 8. In that group, those born by C-section were nearly 80 percent more likely than the others to develop asthma. The explanation may be that a vaginal birth “primes” a baby’s immune system by exposing it to bacteria as it moves through the birth canal."
    Interesting, isn't it? Espcially since,
    "Asthma has emerged as a major public health problem in the United States over the past 20 years. Currently, nearly 15 million Americans have asthma, including almost 5 million children. The number of asthma cases has more than doubled since 1980. Approximately 5,500 persons die from asthma each year, and rates have increased over the past 20 years. Rates of death, hospitalization, and emergency department visits are 2-3 times higher among African Americans than among white Americans. The costs of asthma have also increased to 12.7 billion dollars in 1998."


    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Mothering Webinar (Free!) on Natural Toys

    Let's Play!: Mothering's A to Z Guide to Natural Toys is a free webinar offered by Mothering, on Tuesday, December 2nd 3-4pm EST. This is their description:
    "The holidays are here. Given today's economy and the demand for toxic-free toys, parents are on the lookout for affordable, natural toys. Let Mothering help you choose the safest, highest quality gifts that won't break the bank.

    Mothering's own product reviewer, Candace Walsh, will help you find toys under $20 and answer the question "When is 'Made in China' OK?"

    Also, green expert Mindy Pennybacker will discuss toxin-free toy options for your kids.

    And mama crafter Amber Dusick will take the scariness out of scroll saw wooden toy making and discuss natural paint options."
    The other Mothering webinar I participated in was excellent, and I imagine this one will be very helpful too!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Monday, November 10, 2008

    Toxins in Children's Toys and Products

    Most every summer we go visit my husband's best friend's mom (quite the introduction, yes?) at her annual beach rental in Friendship, ME. She is the Director of Outreach on things environmental for an Ivy League school. About four years ago, she saw me heat up my kid's fish sticks on a plastic plate in the microwave and went up one side of me and down the other: "plastics! heat! YOUR KID!!" I had no idea there was anything wrong with this habit. But let me tell you, that was the last time I've heated up my kids' food in plasic! I thanked her then for the heads-up, but now, with everything that's come out since about BPA and children's products, I'm especially grateful.

    TOXIC WHAT???
    If you're wondering what I'm talking about, or want to know more than you do now, here are three helpful links that explain the potential hazards of common toxins in our children's environment, including BPA in plastic:

    Plastic Exposure in Childhood - Is There Evidence of Exposure?

    Toxic Toys on PBS

    Controversy Over Safety of Plastics and Kids Health

    Mothering Magazine also has a great article on this topic: Out of the Mouths of Babes.


    BPA-FREE
    If you're wondering where you can find BPA-free feeding products for your baby, here are two websites that might be helpful:

    Choosing glass or BPA-free plastic baby bottles

    Z Report on BPA in Children's Feeding Products offers more information on what bottles, pacifiers, and tableware are BPA-Free.

    As more and more companies are becoming aware that "BPA-free" on the label will attract consumers, there will be more BPA-free choices and clear labeling.


    CHOOSING TOYS
    With the holiday season coming up, here are a few of the websites listed in "The Long Goodbye to Toxic Toys" from the Nov/Dec 2008 Mothering Magazine, a great article by Mindy Pennybacker.

    Tips on Toy Safety

    Search Toys for Toxins (by brand, type, search)

    Toys Without Detected Toxins of Concern

    Toys with Highest Levels of Toxins


    RECALL INFORMATION
    US Consumer Product Safety Commission Recalls and Product Safety News lists recalls by month and year.


    CHOOSING BATHING & INFANT CARE PRODUCTS
    TIPS Unlimited Baby Skincare Awards include product descriptions for safer baby wash, shampoo, bum cream, lotion, toothpaste and more.

    Hope this information is helpful!

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    NY Times Health Update Links

    I receive the weekly Health Update e-newsletter from the New York Times. There have been several interesting articles lately:

    Fan in Room Seems to Cut Infants' Cut Infants Risk of Crib Death (SIDS)
    "Dr. Li said the use of fans should not replace other sleeping strategies for lowering SIDS, like removing soft bedding and putting babies on their back. He noted that the gains shown in the study were an average for the whole group, including for babies whose care did not meet the guidelines. Still, even if a baby had a safe sleeping environment, the risk of SIDS was lowered by about 16 percent for those who had a fan in the room, although the trend was not statistically significant.

    “If parents wanted to do more to reduce the baby’s SIDS risk,” he said, “they can add a fan.”"


    More links to safe sleeping information and SIDS prevention:

    An interesting article on SIDS and bed-sharing and breastfeeding.

    Dr. James McKenna offers a complete guide to bed-sharing on the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame website, including sections on guidelines, advantages, long-term effects

    Safe Sleeping with Your Baby provides recent information on sleep-sharing from attachment parenting gurus, the Drs. Sears.

    Safe Sleeping tips from Drs. Sears for all babies, those co-sleeping or sleeping in a crib.


    Advances in Testing for Down Syndrome Rely on Mother's Blood
    "For three decades, scientists have been trying to develop a noninvasive prenatal test for Down syndrome that would replace amniocentesis, which can cause miscarriages.

    Now, scientists using powerful genetic techniques are closing in on that goal with tests that require only a blood sample from the pregnant woman."


    Acetaminophen in Babies Tied to Asthma Risk
    "The use of acetaminophen in the first year of life is associated with an increased risk for asthma, eczema and allergic runny nose later in childhood, a New Zealand study reports. Acetaminophen is sold in the United States under the brand name Tylenol and as an ingredient in many other pain relievers."

    Ack!!!!!!!!! Not that I medicated my kids all the time, but they were both intense teethers - swollen bloody gums, lots of crying, at night especially... I guess a lot of that was after 12 months, but my daughter started teething at 4 months, so I know she got some.


    And from last week: You're Sick. Now What? Knowledge is Power. Not all of this applies, certainly, because pregnancy and birth are not illnesses. An interesting perspective. Here's an excerpt:
    "“I don’t think people have a choice — it’s mandatory,” said Dr. Marisa Weiss, a breast oncologist in Pennsylvania who founded the Web site breastcancer.org. “The time you have with your doctor is getting progressively shorter, yet there’s so much more to talk about. You have to prepare for this important meeting.”"


    If you want to sign up for the free newsletter, go to the NYTimes Member Center and sign up, indicating which newsletters you want.

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine

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    Wednesday, July 23, 2008

    Tandem Nursing and Colostrum

    When people realized that I wasn't intending to wean my first child before my second child was born, I got a lot of questions. First there were the questions about the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant. Those questions were fairly simple because overwhelming evidence supports the safety of breastfeeding while pregnant (as long as there aren't complicating risk factors, like a history of pre-term labor). Second I got questions about supply - would the newborn get enough once he was born? Well, since I've always tended toward over-supply, and I didn't plan to limit nursing sessions, I wasn't worried. The answer to that question is simply logistical: let the newborn nurse first, for as long as (s)he wants, and then the older child gets the "leftovers".

    The one question that stumped me was - will the new baby get colostrum? If you're asking yourself "what exactly is colostrum" or wondering about its benefits, check out the La Leche League factsheet on colostrum. I thought the new baby would get colostrum, but I wasn't sure exactly how it would work.

    In case you're considering tandem nursing and are wondering the same thing, I'm posting this information from email newsletters I received this week:

    First, from the Mothering weekly email, one of the questions of the week was re: colostrum and tandem nursing. The reply from Kathleen Bruce explains that "When a mother delivers a baby and the placenta separates from the uterus, the hormones of lactation take over and lactogenesis continues with the production of colostrum, and later, mature milk as your baby and toddler nurse frequently."

    A very similar question was highlighted in the most recent Midwifery Today email newsletter, which offered a similar response: "Typically the pregnant and nursing mother experiences a decrease in milk production sometime during second trimester, and then begins to produce colostrum sometime during third trimester. Colostrum production continues until about the third or fourth day after birth, when frequent nursing by the newborn baby brings in mother's milk. It is important during these first few days for the mother to limit the older nursling's time at the breast, to insure that the newborn receives plenty of colostrum."

    Some of my favorite tandem nursing resources include:
    Adventures in Tandem Nursing, by Hilary Flower
    Kellymom's pages on nursing during pregnancy & tandem nursing
    La Leche League's articles on tandem nursing

    Just for a data point, here is my experience: I tandem nursed for just short of a year before my older child weaned. There were lots of benefits for all of us - I never got engorged (unlike my first breastfeeding experience), my milk production stabilized quickly (instead of leaking for almost a year, I had stopped leaking after about a month), I didn't have anything like the nipple soreness I had with my first, I didn't feel that I was depriving my older child of something she needed, etc. My older child was still able to reap the many benefits of extended nursing (now, at six years old, she still has never had an infection of any kind, or any antibiotics - yay breastmilk!), and occasionally share nursing time with her brother; weaning didn't play into sibling dynamics or resentment.

    This is not to say tandem nursing is easy - I think it can be emotionally challenging to nurse two children, as well as physically draining. For us, though, I think it was easier to tandem nurse than to wean my older child who was so not ready, emotionally or physically.

    Anyway, since there were two articles in my email newsletters in the same week, I figured I'd share... Anyone else care to share tandem nursing experiences?

    Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
    Independent Childbirth Classes in Central Maine

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