Attachment Parenting In Nature

Becoming a mother has changed me in more ways than I knew possible. I am passionate today about things I’d never heard of two years ago. I also spend a lot more time around animals than I ever did before, since we’ve tried to get Ameli outdoors and into nature as much as possible.
Over the last two years I’ve started a ‘collection’ of sorts, of photographs I’ve taken of wild animals practicing ‘attachment parenting’. These are the best I have so far, but I intend to extend my collection whenever I have the opportunity.

Nursing in Nature

It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of breastfeeding. I think it’s the most amazing gift women were ever given. And whenever I see animals feeding their young, nurturing them and helping them grow, I have strange little flutters of excitement in my belly. A little OTT, I’m sure, but it’s true.

Here are three of my favourite animal nursing shots

Kangaroos in Perth, Australia

Giraffes in Longleat, Somerset, England

Zebras in the wild, Dhikololo, South Africa

Babywearing in Nature

The origin of the term Kangaroo care – and the ultimate in babywearing.

Perth, Ausralia

More to come…

Coping With The Guilt Of Motherhood

Melissa asks: How do you cope with the motherly Guilt? I find it the hardest part of being a mum. Guilt imposed by myself and by Others. Work, don’t work, allow chocolate, ban chocolate etc…

Melissa’s question made me think about one of my very early posts, Guilty As Charged, where I wrote about all the things I felt guilty about as a new mother. “My mom told me today that you aren’t a parent till you feel guilty about something.  And there’s so much to feel guilty for”, I wrote at the time.

Now, 15 or so months later, I realise that my approach has changed and my feelings are different, and motherhood has been a much more pleasant experience as a result. There are many reasons, but an oddly simple explanation: I am doing my best.

And that’s not a cop-out statement. On the contrary, it is meant as a motivation, and for me, an ambition to strive for. That also doesn’t mean I never feel guilty about things, but rather use the guilt as a starting point for change.

So what brought around the transformation for me?

  1. I remembered that I’ve never been perfect before, so I won’t be a perfect parent, and I cut myself some slack.It came as a great relief to me, in fact, when one of my parenting mentors, Lauren from Hobomama wrote about how she is not the perfect mother her blog might portray. It made me realise that striving for perfection was putting an unnatural strain on me and on our relationship. That’s not to say that I’m okay with mediocrity, because I’m not, but not beating myself up for my shortcomings as a parent means I have more energy to spend on being a parent, rather than feeling bad about what I don’t or can’t achieve.
  2. It’s not the fall that makes the (wo)man – it’s if and how (s)he gets up again. This is kind of the point of point number 1. No one is perfect, and sometimes, even those who try the hardest do make mistakes – I have screamed at my daughter, I have twice smacked her hand or her bottom when I’ve lost control of my patience, I’ve let a whole 24 hour period go by without changing her clothes, so she spent all day in her pyjamas – all things my ‘perfect’ self wouldn’t do. What makes you (or me) a good parent, isn’t never making mistakes, it’s being able to say sorry, move on and try again.
  3. I don’t do anything ‘just because’. Every parenting decision is based on research, thought and conscious decision.
    If you’re reading my blog, you probably know this already, but I research and read everything, and there are very few, if any, things that we do, practices that we follow and so on that I haven’t looked at from all angles, made a decision on and stuck to. And because of this, I feel that I have at least relative confidence in our choices, thereby lessening the opportunity for guilt.
  4. Guilt is a useless emotionThere is no point to guilt. When I feel guilty about something – and trust me, it happens often – I try to consciously change what it is I feel guilty about. I feel guilty because I’ve spent all morning on the laptop leaving Ameli to entertain herself? Put down the laptop and spend the time I would have wasted feeling guilty, actually spending time with her. It’s an active choice, a conscious decision and it makes a difference.
  5. Escape the politics (and do what works for YOUR child)

    So much of being a mother involves politics. If you do one thing you offend one half of mothers and if you do another you offend the other half. No matter what you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong, and yes, your child will be scarred for life because you did do, didn’t do, or thought of doing xyz. Knowing why (point 4) you do what you do makes standing firm in your choice a lot easier, and makes avoiding the politics that much easier too.

    Remember also that there is no ‘one size fits all’ in parenting. What works for me and mine might just not work for you and yours, so don’t waste time and energy comparing yourself and your child(ren) to those around you.

So, in the end, I think the answer is to do the best you can with what you have, and make peace with what you cannot do, or give. If you have to work, don’t feel guilty about it, because guilt exhausts, meaning when you get home you don’t have the energy to spend the quality time you do have effectively. Give chocolate if you want, don’t give it if you don’t – but both in moderation. We don’t allow sweets or sugary drinks in the late afternoon or evening (choice) because the sugar keeps Ameli awake too late, isn’t digested by the body in the evening and isn’t good for her teeth (reason).

By allowing ourselves to feel guilty for all the ways we aren’t as good as we want to be, we lose out on valuable time where we could be meaning something, and doing something positive. By no means does just doing your best mean that you have to compromise on your parenting ideals, but what it does mean is that you’ll cut yourself some slack when you fail, and tomorrow, once you’ve caught your breath, counted to ten, or the next time your child walks into the room, you can apologise if need be, and start again, with a clean slate and no need for guilt.

Do Breastfed Babies/Toddlers Need To Brush Their Teeth?

Perhaps it was because our clinic happened to be based in one of the more deprived areas of London that our health visitors were particularly hot on tooth brushing. Ameli received her first toothbrush and toothpaste set at around two months of age, while her first teeth arrived at four months. The second set came at eight months, and since then we’ve pretty much been non-stop teething.

As for toothbrushing, it’s kind of more a game in our home. I give Ameli her tiny little toothbrush when I’m brushing my teeth. She kind of chews on it a little, munches on it and swirls it around in her mouth and then gives it back. How much cleaning goes on, I can’t really say. But I do know that I’m not willing to force my little girl’s mouth open to shove in a toothbrush then try to explain to her to spit out the toothpaste.
Of course this led me to wondering whether I’m doing the right thing, so I had to start doing a bit of reasearch.

According to an article at KellyMom, “Before the use of the baby bottle, dental decay in baby teeth was rare. Two dentists, Dr. Brian Palmer and Dr. Harold Torney, have done extensive research on human skulls (from 500-1000 years ago) in their study of tooth decay in children. Of course these children were breastfed, probably for an extended length of time. Their research has led them to conclude that breastfeeding does not cause tooth decay.

One of the reasons for nighttime bottles causing tooth decay is the pooling of the liquid in baby’s mouth (where the milk/juice bathes baby’s teeth for long periods of time). Breastmilk is not thought to pool in the baby’s mouth in the same way as bottled milk because the milk doesn’t flow unless the baby is actively sucking. Also, milk from the breast enters the baby’s mouth behind the teeth. If the baby is actively sucking then he is also swallowing, so pooling breast milk in the baby’s mouth appears not to be an issue.”

We all know already that breastmilk is an incredible “live” substance. It contains live cells and antibodies, and has antibacterial properties.

On teeth, a bacteria called strep mutans causes tooth decay. Strep Mutans uses food sugars to produce acid, and it is this acid that causes decay. Strep Mutans thrives on sugars, low amounts of saliva and low ph-levels in the saliva (the last two can be eased by ensuring you/your baby drinks enough water).

Breastmilk contains a substance called Lactoferrin. Colostrum has the highest concentration of Lactoferrin, followed by human milk, then cow’s milk. Lactoferrin is one of the components of the immune system of the body, and has antimicrobial activity – meaning it’s a bacteriocide and a fungicide.

When it comes to night nursing, breast-fed babies are at less risk of tooth decay due to the antibacterial properties, so it’s safe to feed them at night and even let them fall asleep while feeding. Breast milk can also discourage tooth decay from improper brushing after meals well beyond infancy and into toddlerhood.

However, there is a ‘however’. Enamel defects can occur when the first teeth are forming in utero. If there are small defects in the tooth enamel, the teeth are more vulnerable and the protective effect of breastmilk may not be enough to counteract the combined effect of the bacteria and the sugars in the milk.

The problem is that you might not necessarily know if there is a defect in the enamel, so you should ensure oral hygiene as best you can. I’m still not convinced that that’s by shoving a toothbrush into a refusing child’s mouth but hopefully some of these tips will come in handy.

Tips:

  • Cut sucrose from the diet as much as possible. Sucrose is the only form of sugar strep mutans can use to form polysaccharide – the sticky substance that forms plaque.
  • Avoid spoon sharing, wet kisses or putting a dummy in your mouth before giving it to your baby as this shares saliva, which introduces Strep Mutans
  • Linda Folden Spooner from Mothering.com suggests the following :
    • The use of the cavity-fighting sugar, xylitol, might be the easiest of beneficial efforts. Xylitol mouth rinses, mints, and gums are available.
    • Decaf green tea is cavity fighting. Sweeten with a little xylitol and carry it around in a water bottle. If your dentist pushes fluoride, you can tell him your child is getting clean and natural fluoride from tea.
    • One contributing factor in some child decay situations is the flora in mother’s mouth. Some moms who focus the bulk of their time on quality parenting find little time left to care for themselves. If you have a decay problem yourself, you now have an excuse to focus more time on your own dental hygiene, for the sake of your child.
  • From KellyMom:
    • Give him a sip of water after meals to wash food particles away
    • Don’t allow baby to carry a cup or a bottle around during the day. This results in a constant “bathing” of baby’s teeth with whatever he’s drinking.
    • Decay is directly related to the amount of contact time of a sugary substance with the teeth. Avoid too many sugary, sticky foods as well, and talk to your dentist about the amount of fluoride in your drinking water (ed: some cities add fluoride to drinking water).

How Do I Learn To Play?

I made an alarming and dreadful discovery recently: I don’t know how to play.

I’ve been trying to think about the games I used to play as a child, and I simply don’t remember any. What I do remember is running drills with my younger sister and brother, timing them to see how quickly they could be safely nestled in the bomb shelter with their creature comforts. Or when we no longer lived on the border and the war was over, I’d do timed drills with them to see how quickly they could get into their pre-approved hiding places at the top of the cupboard, just in case someone came into the house with the intent to do harm – we didn’t even have TV then, so who knows where my imagination came from!
(more…)

Dear Ameli- Letter To A Sixteen Month Old

Dear Ameli

Sixteen months, little girl. Sixteen months.

We’ve had quite a hard month, really, and it’s been more about me than about you. I’ve been on this hormone treatment to try to sort things out in my very messed up hormones, and besides that I had a great case of food poisoning that knocked me out for a good week.

You’ve been great though. Even when I was sick, you just kept yourself low key and for the most part entertained yourself when aunty Deshaine wasn’t around.

Your development is phenomenal, and you just keep adding words to your vocabulary. Sometimes we only have to repeat something once or twice and you have it. I don’t think you always understand the word but you definitely ‘get’ actions. Sometimes I’m absolutely astounded by the way you follow instructions. You may not know the words, but you certainly know what they mean.

One day I was doing some housework when you just wanted ‘up, up, up’. I decided to get you involved, so gave you something for the bin, and you popped it in the bin. I gave you something for the wash basket, and you popped it in the wash basket. I gave you a wooden spoon to put in the sink, and you looked at me with confusion. So I led you over to the sink, and you stood on the tips of your toes and reached your arm up as far as it would go and dropped it on the ledge. I was so incredibly impressed.

You’ve taken to drawing, but at the moment, your version of drawing usually involves a pen and one or another body part. One day you were drawing on your leg with a ballpoint pen. I took it from you and drew a flower on your knee. Once I was finished, you pointed at it, said ‘wower’ (your version of flower) and then raised your knee to your nose and sniffed repeatedly. Maybe you had to be there, but it was very funny.

Not all your developments are great either: You’ve learned to pretend that you can’t hear me when I’m telling you to do something you don’t want to do. Which works pretty well until I pretend I have some tasty bit of food and go hmmm-mmmh – then you hear perfectly and want some too!

I could fill pages and pages with the things you do, my beautiful girl. But this will do for today.

Oh, and you have more teeth! You have four on top now, and four on the bottom, and more bumps all over your gums.
Keep doing what you’re doing Princess. You are beautiful.

Lots of love,
Mama

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