Child Safety

The McDonalds Ad That Shows How We Have Childhood So Wrong

I’m not bashing McDonalds here. If I’m going to eat fries, I’ll eat theirs. If I’m going to pick up something cheap on the way home, it’s going to be their sweet chilli chicken wrap. Back when I was a student I had an impressive collection of Happy Meal toys. So understand that I’m not standing on a pedestal and waving a finger at people who eat at McDonalds, but I saw the new McDonalds Ad on TV tonight and it is honestly everything that’s wrong with our view of childhood today.

No running by the pool

Yeah, okay, there’s some sense in not running by the pool. But I’ve heard people say the same about the park, the playground or even their own gardens. If a child was running at 30 miles an hour I’d understand. I’d also be impressed. Don’t let them lose out on the opportunity to experience and manage risk because we’re afraid of bumps and scrapes.

No touching

This excited boy drags his parents into a museum. They can’t walk fast enough. He finally sees what he wants to show them, and puts his hands up on the glass. Not on an ancient artifact, just on a bit of glass, that someone will be cleaning later on anyway – and he’d just been holding his mother’s hand so we know he wasn’t covered in ice cream. Way to deflate the kid’s enthusiasm. And tomorrow he doesn’t want to go back and we say he’s not interested in history, or science.

No bouncing on the bed

Okay, here again, it’s not their bed. Fair enough. And it’s not great for the bed. That’s why my kids need a trampoline… this is obviously a child with a lot of energy, and bed shopping is boring.

No fairground ride

Actually my daughter was refused a ride on a roller coaster recently and I was really very glad about it, having gone on it myself. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and I was mildly terrified. Sometimes these things have valid reasons. Sometimes they have ridiculous health and safety limitations. How many kids today have never even climbed a tree? Not because it’s more dangerous, but because we are afraid of their pain. We are afraid of them evaluating risk in a safe(r) environment.

We got stuck on a different roller coaster at the same park recently, and had to sit in driving rain for 15 minutes waiting for the fire department to come help us walk along the tracks: 7 meters to the public platform. Along a solid pavement. It was ridiculous. Health and safety leaves us with a generation of people who are incapable of understanding their limitations because they’ve never been allowed to test them.

No adventurous cycling (with helmet on)

The boy tries to make a ramp with his bicycle. It’s not even high. But no, no… too what? dangerous? puh-lease.

Keep off the grass

I understand the concept of other people’s property, and that children need to learn respect for things that aren’t theirs, but really? Keep off the grass? Isn’t that the bit they play whatever sport it is on? Is a young boy running on the grass on his own going to wreck it? I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it!

Avoid the puddles

Why? Because his feet might get wet? His shoes might get muddy? Well, that would have been a lesson well learned. Jump in puddles, get wet feet. Now, instead, outside is just another boring place where you can’t have any fun.

But by all means, run into a fast food restaurant and have ‘quality time’ eating processed food

But don’t worry kiddo. There’s always McDonalds. There you can hear ‘yes’. There you can have fun, and laughter and freedom to truly enjoy the best that childhood has to offer. With your cardboard children’s meals and plastic toys. (Yeah, I know, my kids have it sometimes too. That’s HOW I know.)

This advert does not make me want the chicken wrap I so enjoy (when I don’t think about the farmed chickens.)

It makes me sad for a fictional boy named Harry and all the children like him.

It makes me want to run my children barefoot down a hill to jump in puddles and leap over logs. It makes me want to carry an extra tin of plasters for every little booboo that teaches them to fall and stand up again. That teaches them just how far you can pull a branch before it snaps, that teaches them how unpleasant thrown sand in the eye can be. That teaches them that if a fall from knee-height hurt, a fall off a cliff will be fatal. That peers don’t always have the best advice or intentions.

It makes me grateful that my children are free range and hopeful that somewhere out there, when they’re grown up and looking for partners of their own, there will be someone left who had a freerange childhood too.

Loosen the grip

Parenting Fears And Reality Checks

Parenting is a cacophony of emotions. When you’re not thoroughly worn out from sleepless nights, exhausted from good parenting days, or simply just trying to make it through, there’s always something to worry about. Someone you know lost a child, someone in your area had a child go missing, someone who knows someone who was a really good parent ended up with a junkie-teen. Just like people love to share a terrible birth story, and tend to shun those who had wonderful birth stories, everyone loves to share the bad stories about what happened to someone else, or how another child turned out, and it doesn’t really matter – to some extent – how they were parented, it’s normally the mother’s fault.

Welcome to the February 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Fears

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and wisdom about parenting fears.

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It’s the fear of these things that make parents so susceptible to marketing, spending (often wasting) money on the latest gadgets and basically living our lives doing everything we can to prevent something bad, and encourage something good happening to the little people entrusted to us.

The scary thing though? Like most of us, I know this, but I still have three particular fears where my two little girls are concerned:

In no particular order, there’s the fear of death, kidnapping and failure.

cuddlesMost of us know someone who has lost a baby – born or unborn – or a child. I never knew how ‘common’ infant loss was till I became a mother myself. And then, because Ameli’s birth was such an amazing, enriching and empowering experience, I was terrified when Aviya’s turn came. For  months I really worried, almost believed that I would never get to hold her alive. I was so worried something was going to go wrong in her birth. I mean, what are the chances that I could be so blessed, twice.

And now, even though I am a confident second time mother, and even though I am confident and relatively experienced in my use of homoeopathic and herbal remedies over conventional medicines for most of the girls’ minor ailments, when Aviya, specifically, gets ill, this niggely, horrible voice in the back of my head forces me to question myself, reminding me of that ‘feeling’. It takes a lot of pulling myself together to trust my intuition as much with this lovely second child of mine.

While many of us know someone who has been touched by the loss of a child, very few of us – me included – knows personally someone who has had a child kidnapped. And yet, it’s probably one of the biggest fears a parent faces. I can’t imagine how parents who have lost a child this way go on. I can’t imagine the horror. And yet, the statistics on ‘stranger danger‘ and someone doing something to our children are so different to what our fears justify.

stranger dangerIf you’re a parent who lives in the shadow of this fear, I highly recommend Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood (US Link). It highlights how rare something like a stranger kidnapping really is, but how, because we see the lost and forlorn little face, and the obviously heartbroken parents in our living room, on repeat, day after day after day, it imprints on our brains to the point that we start almost identifying each replay as a new occurrence.  (I actually recommend this book for a ton of other reasons too, it doesn’t make you feel guilty, but does encourage you to see a lot of reality in parenting and child raising. It’s one of my top three parenting book recommendations!)

Failure. Failure is a big one, and we all get it from the day our babies are conceived. Didn’t have a natural birth? Will I be able to bond with my child? Didn’t breastfeed? You and your child will probably both die of cancer. Didn’t babywear? Your poor child will lag behind in literacy for, like, ever. Didn’t co-sleep? Poor kid will have intimacy issues for the rest of their lives. You sent them to nursery school for four hours a week? Oh, the drama. Didn’t send them to a Montessori/Steiner/Waldorf/Forest school?  What kind of parent are you!?

Pretty much everything we do is wrong to someone. Praise your kids? Wrong. Don’t praise your kids? Wrong. Send them to school? Wrong. Keep them at home? Wrong . Feed them grass-fed meat? Wrong. Feed them no meat? Wrong. Make everything from scratch? Did you sprout the grains first? Well… did you?

I think a lot of parenting and enjoying parenting comes down to three things:

Let go – of the things you can’t control. 

Be realistic – in accordance to what’s real, your circumstances and what you can really do

Trust your instinct listen to your child, listen to the voice inside you, and when you’re confident in your choices, no one can make you feel judged. And when you’re not confident, do your own research. 

If you can – if I can – let go of things I don’t control, be realistic about my limitations and abilities, circumstances and finances, and trust that everything I do is for the best of my children and our family, the fears are a lot easier to quell, and motherhood is a much more fulfilling, enjoyable ride.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (list will be final around 5pm PST February 11):

  • When Parents’ Fears Escalate — If we didn’t self-doubt, we probably wouldn’t care enough about our children to struggle with understanding them. But how do we overcome self-doubt? Read advice from Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., guest posting today at Natural Parents Network.
  • What ifs of addiction — After seeing how addictions of adult children is badly hurting a family close to her heart, Hannah at HannahandHorn shares her fears for her own child.
  • Sharing My Joy — Kellie at Our Mindful Life shares her fear that others think she is judgmental because she makes alternative choices for her own family.
  • Building My Tribe Fearlessly — A meteorite hit Jaye Anne at Tribal Mama’s family when she was seven years old. Read the story, how she feels about that now, and how she is building her tribe fearlessly.
  • Fear: Realized — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen shares how her fear of car accidents was realized and how she hopes to be able to use her efforts to overcome the remaining fears to help her children overcome their own.
  • I’m a Negligent Helicopter Parent — For Issa Waters at LoveLiveGrow, the line between helicopter parenting and negligent parenting is not so cut and dried.
  • My Greatest Fear For My Child — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama admits that she has struggled with not allowing her fears to control her and how the reality of this was blown wide open when she became a mother.
  • Procactive Steps to Calm Parenting Fears — Every parent has certain fears related to dangerous situations, That Mama Gretchen shares ways she is preparing herself and her children for emergencies.
  • Homeschooling Fears – Will My Children Regret Being Homeschooled? — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares an interview with her now-adult children that answers a question she had throughout their homeschooling.
  • An Uneasy Truce — Homeschooler and recent convert to unschooling, Tam at tinsenpup shares just a few of the things she tries to keep in mind when fear and insecurity begin to take hold.
  • Fearing the worst, expecting the best — Tarana at Sand In My Toes writes about fears that come with parenting, and why we must overcome them.
  • Can I be the parent I want to be? — Amanda at Postilius confronts her struggle to peacefully parent a preschooler
  • Out of Mind, Out of Fear — How does Jorje of Momma Jorje deal with her pretty steep, long-term fears regarding her son’s future?
  • I Don’t Homeschool to Manage My Kids’ Transcripts — One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s fears of parenting is that she will get so caught up in the monotony, the details of homeschooling, the minutiae of everyday life, the routine of taking care of a household – that she will forget to actually be present in the moment with her children.
  • Beware! Single Mom Camping — Erica at ChildOrganics shares her first adventures as a single mom. She laughed, she cried, she faced her fears.
  • Parenting Fears And Reality Checks — Luschka from Diary of a First Child shares her three biggest fears as a parent – that most parents share – looks at the reality behind these fears, and offers a few suggestions for enjoying parenting.
  • Parenting fear : to kill a pink rabbit…Mother Goutte tells us the story of a pink rabbit that disappeared, came back, and became the symbol of her worst parenting fear…
  • Roamingsustainablemum considers whether allowing your children freedom to explore the world safely is harder now than in the past.
  • Meeting my parenting fears head-on — Lauren at Hobo Mama had many fears before she became a parent. Learn how they all came true — and weren’t anywhere near as scary as she’d thought.
  • Don’t fear the tears — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger worried that letting her children cry when going to sleep was tantamount to the dreaded parenting moniker, CIO. She discusses what actually happened after those teary nights, and how she hopes these lessons can carry forward to future parenting opportunities.
  • Will I Still be a Good Mom? — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot worries about her mothering skills now that breastfeeding is no longer the top priority.
  • Pregnancy Fears: It Happened to My Sisters, It Will Happen to Me… — Kristen at Baby Giveaways Galore discusses the difficulties with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding that the women in her family have had and how she overcame them.
  • Fears — Meegs at A New Day talks about how her fears before parenting led to a better understanding of herself and her desires for her daughter.


 disclaimer for links

Why Doesn't Music Come With Age Restrictions?

I grew up in a home devoid of pop music. We listened to a lot of Christian music – think Amy Grant and Twila Paris – Jewish music and Christian children’s tapes. In my teens I ‘rebelled’ against this and started listening to Christian Adult Contemporary music  – have you ever heard of Carmen? – and rock  – Petra, anyone? – and my mother was convinced I was leading my siblings straight to hell. (Sorry ma, but it’s true!)

Annoyed and tired of the hassle of fighting about my ‘evil’ music, I asked a guy at school, Peter, to find me the worst Christian death metal (otherwise known as White Metal)  – or Christian music’s answer to death metal – that he could find. He got me a tape and I went home with it and for about a week listened to Torniquet. I didn’t particularly like it, but I listened to it whenever my parents were around, as loud as I could get away with. (more…)

Co-Sleeping and Breastfeeding

A reader asked me to write about co-sleeping and breastfeeding. Although this is something we’ve been doing since around one and a half hours after Ameli’s birth – she was born at 4.40am, we were asleep in our bed by six – it’s still a hard topic to write about because I’ve never really thought about it. We’ve simply just ‘done’ it.

Governments will tell us not to co-sleep, or bed share, as they claim that it reduces the risk of SIDS, yet they acknowledge that it is done in most homes at some point – yet they choose not to talk about doing so safely.

Research has shown various things, and at times all conflicting, but even so the human race has co-slept for most of its existence. It has also breastfed, wet nursed and so on for most of that time.

A study done at the University of Notre Dame, summarises their work thus:

We hope that the studies and data described in this paper, which show that co-sleeping at least in the form of roomsharing especially with an actively breast feeding mother saves lives, is a powerful reason why the simplistic, scientifically inaccurate and misleading statement ‘never sleep with your baby’ needs to be rescinded, wherever and whenever it is published.

According to JJ McKenna1, breastfeeding mothers are more than three times as likely to bed-share.

image: from Atom Egoyan's Sweet HereafterSomething I read, and I can’t for the life of me find it now, when I had just started co-sleeping and breastfeeding was that researchers had found that mothers who co-sleep with their infants were almost unanimously sleeping in the exact same position – with the infant cradled in the nook of the arm, which is protectively around the outside of the baby, and knees drawn up to prevent the baby from shimmying down into the bed. This really fascinated me as I was sleeping like that without anyone ever having told me to.

The Notre Dame study confirms the instinctively safer approach to bed-sharing, saying Our studies have shown that without instruction, the routinely bed-sharing breast feeding mothers almost always placed their infants in the safe supine infant sleep position, probably because it is difficult, if not impossible, to breast feed a prone sleeping infant.

For the babies, bed-sharing meant more regular feeds, and “the nightly durations of breast feeding and to shorten the average intervals between the breast feeding sessions” therein. (Which, as an aside, led to the mothers fertility being regulated.)

Nicky Heskin, in an article about cosleeping and breastfeeding, makes a very valid point too, especially for working mums:

Cosleeping is a great way to fulfill your baby’s physical need for attachment if mommy is not the primary caregiver during the day. Several of my friends who need or choose to work cosleep at night and tell me they don’t feel like they “never see their baby” as some of their colleagues report. Cosleeping also provides the opportunity for increased night nursing (note that cosleeping does not cause increased night nursing: it just means you won’t have to get out of bed for it!). Increased night nursing can help reduce baby’s daytime breastmilk needs and keep milk supply well-stimulated to extend the amount of time working moms are able to be successful at exclusive breastfeeding through pumping.

Cosleeping and breastfeeding as a combination also helps with sleep deprivation. Mothers who learn to breastfeed in the side lying position especially will find themselves feeding without getting up, which makes sleep a lot less disturbed. Later, once babies are able to move a bit more freely, you’ll often find you often don’t even wake up during nursing: I once told my husband that I thought Ameli had slept through, and he actually laughed at me, as he had awoken to the sound of her nursing a few times during the night. At least one of us woke up really refreshed that morning!

early days cosleepingAs always, the ‘rules’ of co-sleeping need to be followed: never co-sleep when you’ve been drinking, never co-sleep if you take drugs, including those that make you drowsy, such as antihistamines, and don’t co-sleep if one of you is a smoker. Also, don’t let the nanny, aunt or grandparent co-sleep with an infant as they do not have the same instincts as a parent and never underestimate those instincts either. One night when Ameli was a few months old I in my sleep reached over and grabbed her as she was about to plunge off the bed. My husband woke me up to tell me what I had just done.

There is a word of warning too though: in the early weeks, until Ameli coulds move, I sat up to breastfeed. One night, side lying, I fell asleep. Instinct kicked in and I woke up and found that my (rather large) breast was over Ameli’s face and she wasn’t able to breathe. Although it hadn’t been going on long enough that she gulped air or was in any distress, I realised the importance of being alert enough – what the Notre Dame study refers to as level 1 and 2 sleep – and avoiding anything that could interfere with your instincts – such as alcohol or extreme exhaustion. (edit: I sat up, because I had been frightened by the experience, since Ameli had not struggled at all [or if she had, it might have been what woke me, but I wasn’t aware of it] , but I must admit that I had ginormous breasts at that stage. It may be safer to side-lie as at least you won’t drop the baby if you fall asleep, but you’ll have to find what works for you.)

Breastfeeding and cosleeping go hand in hand and have done for centuries. In traditional African culture, mothers cosleep with their offspring till four or five years of age. So do they in many Asian cultures.

I’m only an expert on how we have done it, but if you have any questions, or would like to contribute anything, please leave a comment below.

1 McKenna JJ, Mosko S, Richard C. Bed sharing promotes breastfeeding.Pediatrics 1997; 100: 214–219.

Guidelines for Safe Formula Feeding

I am unapologetically pro-breastfeeding: I think it is absolutely normal and everything else is sub-standard. But I am also passionately pro babies being safe, and when a mother cannot or chooses not to breastfeed her child, or for whatever reason makes the decision to formula feed, I think it is essential that she is equipped to do so safely.
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If Pretending Made It So: We Need Education Not Denial

Information. It is so vital to our survival. Misinformation, on the other hand is a killer. Can you imagine if you were told that a red traffic light meant ‘go’? What chaos would reign in your life, if you lived very long at all?

I have been sorely disturbed in recent months by the information and lack thereof surrounding the sleeping, feeding and care of our babies if it doesn’t fall strictly in line with the latest guidelines, based on the latest research.
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