Breastfeeding, Your Partner, And Sharing the Journey

by Sarah Saucedo

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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When you are considering breastfeeding your baby, it may seem like it will be a one-woman show. The notion that you will be the sole provider for your new baby’s nutrition may seem a bit overwhelming. However, that doesn’t need to be the case! Your partner can play a key support role in your breastfeeding success.

In the first couple days postpartum, having help to make the most of “lying in” should be a priority. “Lying in” simply means the days or week following delivery where mom and baby should be breastfeeding, bonding, doing skin to skin and little else. Your partner can help make this transition easier with a few simple acts:

  • Make sure any therapy or breastfeeding essentials are within your reach and ready to use (nursing pads, nipple balm, therapy pillows)
    • If using reusable nursing pads – make sure they are clean and ready to go
    • Heating or cooling the therapy pillows depending on your liking
  • Make sure you are hydrated and fed
    • Always have a water bottle on your nightstand
    • Place easy-to-grab snacks like protein bars or fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated, like bananas and oranges, within your reach
  • Help with any pain medications or dressings that you may have from your delivery; this can be a big help-especially if you had a cesarean or particularly hard labor.

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Once you are comfortable enough to move around the house more, there are plenty of ways that your partner can still be helpful and supportive in your breastfeeding journey. Here are a few:

  • Stock a nursing station or stations in you favorite spot(s), so you have what you need when you need it. Snacks, wipes, burp clothes, a full water battle, nursing pads and something entertaining, like a good book or magazine are essentials. Fueling you body and mind while the little one eats is multitasking at its finest.
  • Use a bottle to feed baby pumped breastmilk. This can give you some time to take that much needed shower, read a book, or even sleep if your partner is able to pick up a night feeding. It may seem trivial but these little acts of self-care go a long way in the postpartum period.
  • Clean the pump parts and bottles (they add up!)

Having your partner’s support doesn’t need to stop when you venture out of the house, either! Your partner can be just as involved in your breastfeeding journey whether out to eat, shopping, or at a sporting event.

  • Provide emotional support when you need it. It can be a huge boost to your confidence! Knowing that they support you and your breastfeeding journey can be the key to making a possibly anxious situation (like your first time out of the house) as smooth as possible.
  • Check to make sure the diaper bag is fully stocked with all your favorite breastfeeding supplies (pads, nipple balm, and nursing shawl) and whatever baby needs is also helpful. Don’t forget an extra diaper or two and a change of clothes for baby. You might want an extra shirt, too, just in case!

Bringing a new life into the world is challenging and exciting. Having a partner that supports your feeding choices makes everything a little easier. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, your partner will be looking for ways to be involved with baby and you during your breastfeeding journey as well. Happy breastfeeding!

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Sarah is a mom of two wonderful boys, and is expecting her third child in March! She is bamboobie’s support maven as well as a Certified Lactation Educator and Counselor and is passionate about all things breastfeeding. 
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What is Love? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me- giveaways and more

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Dear Leakies,

As #TLBloves comes to a close, we are focusing on the relationship we have with our partner, including what we would like to have with our current or future partner.

Believing that settling is tantamount to giving up, we look for 8 ways to better our romantic relationship in all kinds of places, and it can be helpful to do so, so long as we don’t forget who we and our partner actually are. It’s impossible to fit someone else’s mould.

This week we offer you a smattering of articles and links to inspire you to draw closer to your loved one, to remember the love that you have, and cultivate your relationship so that it can bloom into something beautiful and life-giving. Including this one that sums up a core aspect of our own marriage.

Join us on Instagram, Facebook, and twitter as we share our connection stories with #TLBloves. So grateful for the sponsors we have who believe such connections are important; MilkMakersEarth Mama Angel Baby, fair trade Pebble ToysChompy Chic chewable jewelryBamboobies, and Baby K’Tan baby carriers.

Find love, Grow love, Be love.

Jeremy Martin-Weber
Co-owner, TheLeakyBoob.com
Owner, writer, Beyondmoi.com

This is an excerpt from our TLB email, to continue reading, click here.

 

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9 Tips to Having More and Better Sex After Baby

by Jeremy Martin-Weber
This post is a partner post to one Jessica wrote, 16 points about sex after baby, on beyondmoi.com and a giveaway for Newport Beach MommyCon on November 1, 2014.  Find the giveaway information and widget to enter at the end of this post.

Running the risk of sounding like Cosmo, or Marie Claire, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all the men out there making strategic plans, hoping that their romantic equations will guarantee that they’ll get lucky, I’d like to offer a list of my own.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but my list is the product of 17 years of trial and error with my wife, and I can personally attest that as long as I stick to it, she simply can’t get enough of me.  Seventeen years and six children, and sex just keeps getting better, and we both want it more than we ever did before.

#LoveBeyondMoi The Leaky Boob Beyond Moi Valentine's Day giveaway

You too can have a better sex life; it’s not over just because you’re parents.  If you’re looking for ways to make her (or him) want to drag you to the bedroom, rip your clothes off, and have hot, steamy, sex with you all night long (that’s how those magazine covers read, right?), then this list is for you.

1. Help around the house… but not for sex Everyone loves a partner who is involved, who takes time to help out with household duties.  Way back when we were first married, I first heard the notion that if I took the trash out, my wife would find that act so sexy she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would have to have me right then and there.  I thought that sounded rather strange and hadn’t noticed that effect on her before, but I really started paying attention the next few times I took the trash out, and here is what I noticed: she appreciated my help, but didn’t think it was anything extraordinary.  And that made sense.  But I also noticed that when we were both paying attention to the ways the other was helping out, we both appreciated the other person for doing so, and we felt closer for noticing, and feeling closer can easily lead to sexual feelings.  See how it works?  But it won’t work if you help around the house just to have sex.  There is no magic there.  My advice: do the dishes, help out with your kids, fold and put away the laundry, by all means take the trash out, and for extra credit, thank your partner for those same things and all the other tasks they do.  They may argue that they don’t do it for you, and don’t need to be thanked, but they’ll still appreciate you noticing.  Noticing is sexy. That first tip isn’t just for parents, I admit, but it may be more relevant to parents because prolonged lack of sleep so effectively scrambles your brains that even very simple relational things can get sucked into that black hole (or driving your children to all of their extracurricular activities – that can scramble your brain too over time).  It’s very much the same for this second tip.

2. Get physical… but not for sex Touch your partner.  Often.  Every day.  We can get so determined to get it on that we forget the thrill of simple touches.  You know how physical relationships are compared to a baseball diamond, each base representing more intimate acts of physical expression, ultimately culminating in sexual intercourse when you get to home base?  We can be so goal-oriented, or sexually frustrated, that all we focus on is getting to that home plate.  When Jessica and I were first dating, even the simplest of touches was thrilling because it carried so much meaning.  Caressing each other’s hands communicated love and care, romantic intention, and sexual desire all rolled into one.  A kiss was a gesture of commitment, a desire to be close, to be real and vulnerable.  Sure, at other times, a kiss was an expression of sexual desire, full of passion and wild abandon. But that’s exactly the point.  Physical expressions weren’t all just a means to a steamy, naked end.  Because of their variety, their commonality was clear: a communication of love.  And when I feel loved by my wife, I feel safe, trusting and sexy.  And I know she feels the same way.  And do you know what that leads to?  Great sex.  My advice: kiss your partner at least every morning and evening, wrap your arms around her, hold hands, maybe even take a few dance steps together, and savor each of those physical moments for their simplicity.  Because touching to communicate love is sexy.

3. Distance makes for sexier reconnection Now that we’re all ready to touch our partners more, I offer a word of caution: it has to be the right moment.  Unfortunately, most of us have to find out through trial and error; that’s for both partners.  Jessica and I have both had to learn about ourselves how and when we like to be touched, let alone what our spouse likes.  If you try to touch your partner and you are rebuffed, don’t jump to the conclusion that they just don’t like your touch or don’t want sex (touching just for that end is already a big libido killer anyway).  Pluck up your courage, control your urge to scream and cry (if you actually have feelings, of course), and ask your partner about it.  The way our schedule works, one of us is often home with children most of the day while the other goes out and works at a coffeeshop.  It doesn’t matter which one of us it is, some days at home leave us wanting to find a dark, quiet, corner where we can hug our own knees and twitch for awhile as our brain tries to reboot, and our body relaxes from being touched all day long.  It’s not that we don’t love being home with our children, it’s that it’s not the easiest job in the world.  If you walk in the door and see a frazzled, bleary-eyed partner with a blank expression on their face, that is probably not the time for dipping your partner and a fervent I-missed-you-so-much-wasn’t-today-great kind of kiss.  If ever you’re unsure, I have the simplest solution: ask.  And follow it up with an offer to give them some space.  Ask how you can help before jumping in.  And then, by all means, jump in!  Find ways to give your partner a break on a regular basis.  Sometimes 20 minutes is all it takes to center ourselves.  Sometimes it may take a whole morning, or an entire day, but trust me on this: sex is way better with a centered partner.  Because getting time away is sexy.

4. flirt more… but not for sex I think that every healthy, sexually mature human being likes to feel sexy.  One way to feel sexy is to get a good idea of what real sexy people look like by gazing at magazines, watching music videos, or checking out the latest blockbuster film, then looking in the mirror and saying to yourself: “Damn I look good!”  If I just described you, then this whole post probably isn’t for you at all.  For most of the rest of us, feeling sexy is deeply tied to feeling desired.  When Jessica gives me a sultry “Hey sexy” I feel a boost in confidence, my day gets brighter, and I feel sexy.  Granted, I have to fight off the destructive voice in my head giving me a 5 reasons why you’re not on the sexy list, and just trust that my wife is calling it likes she sees it.  This takes practice, but when I do it regularly, that vile voice in my head gives up and must go into hibernation or something.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone that when you feel sexy, you’re more inclined to have sexy thoughts, and… you know.  So my advice to you is to give your partner a reason to silence that voice in their head.  All the time.  Okay, don’t be obnoxious about it, or you’ll come across as pushy.  Flirt, wink, do the Magnum P.I. eyebrow thing (if you don’t know what that is, well, then, never mind), make subtle suggestive comments; whatever communicates to your partner that they are desired, and desirable.  But don’t have your heart set on sex.  Because flirting is sexy and is an end in and of itself.

5. Spend quality time together… but not for sex.  Developing togetherness has been foundational to our relationship and affects every part of it, including our sex life.  I realize that this concept may definitively put me in the hapless romantic category, but I don’t care, I am an unabashed hapless romantic who has great sex with his wife of 17 years so there.  We have this notion that relationships are living things, and they are constantly evolving, just as each person in the relationship is growing and changing daily.  This means that being static (not changing) is not possible.  You are either growing closer together and developing stronger bonds, or you are slowly drifting apart – unless you are a stone statue of a couple, and even then erosion does take its plodding toll.  So we intentionally find ways that bring us closer together.  There is no reason why you can’t still be as into each other as when you first got together.  Actually, we believe that you should cultivate your relationship keeping being into each other as a worthwhile goal.  Find common interests, and/or try new experiences together.  Play games together.  Make music together.  No, those aren’t references to sexual activities.  Cook together.  Hike or bike together.  Visit museums.  Go out for coffee or a fancy dinner.  Any activity that you will enjoy together, preferably with lots of eye contact, and with no electronic devices or screens (after you’re done reading this you should try it).  Because when you spend time being into each other, you end up wanting to explore all the ways you could be into each other.  (that was a sexual reference, by the way…).

6. Talk more… and I don’t mean about sex (and I don’t mean talk dirty more) Spending time together, being more and more into each other, involves a lot of communication, and most of that will be through actual conversations.  With words and sentences and all that.  If you’re really getting into each other, developing that sense of togetherness that I mentioned in the previous point, then you’re going to want to communicate that you care about your partner’s life, about their day, every day, and that you’re interested in the details, the little experiences that you missed out on.  This may seem obvious, but you’re going to want to communicate that you missed your partner.  Because being missed is sexy.  And giving a damn is really sexy.

7. Help get the kids to bed, and again after midnight.  So finally a practical tip!  I suggest that you don’t gloss over the relational mushy-gushy stuff that I took nearly 2,000 words to write about.  That’s the stuff that really leads to more, and great, sex.  The practical logistics of making sex happen won’t cut it by themselves.  Getting obnoxious distractions (i.e. children- only obnoxious when you’re hoping to make some whoopie) out of the way is essential to hooking up with your partner.  Bed time can be exhausting and time-consuming, and, depending on the age of your children, can burn a parent out and render them huddled in a dark, quiet, corner, hugging their knees, etc.  Or fast asleep before the kids.  It’s much better with two parents.  That way you communicate that you give a damn, that you want to do this together, that you’re willing to help, not to mention demonstrating to your children that you are there for them and their other parent.  Ways to make it more fun: text each other once the bedtime routine is finished but your haven’t extricated yourself from your children’s arms and legs.  A fun texting game we’ve played is where one of us sends the other a random emoticon, and the other has to guess what it’s supposed to mean.  Oops, now everyone knows: we’re dorks.  Dorks that flirt and have great sex.   This may or may not lead to sexting, by the way, which is always fun but possibly awkward and ill-advised if you’re still helping kids settle.  Getting kids to bed once may not be enough.  You may have to commit to moving a sleeping baby, 1 or 2 or even 3 yr old back to their bed after they have sweetly sought out your comforting cuddles around midnight and fallen asleep in the bed where, damn it, you were hoping to have sex (or just cuddle with your partner, or sleep on separate sides of the bed, depending on how grueling the bedtime routine was and how long you each need to huddle by yourselves in the dark, etc.).  Because a kidless bed with just you and your partner is sexy.  (This isn’t to say cosleeping damages sex lives, it doesn’t and we do cosleep, we just also have a “bed” for the cosleepers that they visit for us to have alone time in our bed.  And, if you don’t have teenagers around, there are plenty of other, though less comfortable, places in a house to utilize.)

8. Change the sheets! Those of you who have known us for a little while know what this means, so feel free to skip this tip.  For those of you who don’t, I’ll let you in on our little secret: clean sheets are sexy.  Clean sheets are so sexy that my wife has this irresistible urge to sleep naked in them.  If it weren’t for the sheer logistics of children seeking cuddles, 8 of us in a house with one washing machine, and having to work and feed our family, I would probably wash our sheets every day.  Quick disclaimer: I have learned that just because my wife is naked in bed does not guarantee that we will have sex, or that she is logically interested in having sex.  You would do well to heed these words.  That being said, clean sheets may increase your odds; they certainly increase mine!  Also, mind-blowing as this may sound: sleeping naked together is sexy, and an end in and of itself. And finally, if you’re still with me, the #1 thing you can do to have more sex as parents:

9. Stop asking for it.   There is nothing quite like a whiner to kill a mood, or destroy any chance of there even being a mood to get into in the first place.  Asking for sex, or demanding it, damages your relationship with your partner.  Asking for it communicates only one thing: you think you have to have sex, that you deserve it, or that it is some kind of need.  It is not a form of flirting, it is not flattering, it is not sexy, it doesn’t communicate that your partner is desirable, it does not bring you closer together, it does not communicate that you care, or give a damn about anyone but yourself, and most of all, it communicates a lack of love and respect.  It is gross.  Even if the sheets are clean.  And if you helped around the house, and you flirted, and did your part in getting kids to bed, and spent time listening to every little detail of your partner’s day, and watched whatever stupid movie they wanted to, and this somehow means that you deserve sex, that they owe you sex, then you know nothing about what a healthy relationship looks like, and I would further venture to say that this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to an abusive relationship.  Talk about it but in a carefully, respectful, and concerned conversation.  “I miss having sex with you” means a lot more than “We never have sex any more.”  And if you mention your sexual needs, like it’s some kind of basic human need, you should be slapped.  A basic human need is one where the human is at risk of dying if that need isn’t met.  Like eating, or drinking water.  Are you at risk of dying if you can’t have sex?  No.  And if you’re that horny and you feel like you just can’t keep it together without a release, then I’m sure your partner would appreciate you using your capable hands, rather than pressuring them or guilting them into letting you use their body for your own pleasurable end.  Because guilting your partner into sex is NOT sexy.  And pressuring your partner into sex will not lead to more and better sex, before or after baby.  Also, consider getting therapy.  Therapy can be sexy too.

There is one thing that effectively sums up my 8 tips to having more sex after baby (because that last one wasn’t really a tip, was it?): focus on your relationship with your partner.  All the rest will take care of itself.  And no, that’s not a sexual reference.

~ The Piano Man (aka: Jeremy from BeyondMoi)

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Join us at MommyCon Newport Beach on November 1, 2014 where Jessica is talking about Breastfeeding and Healing sponsored by Motherlove Herbal Company, and Jeremy and Jessica are leading a workshop on Sex After Baby sponsored by our friends at Arm’s Reach Cosleeper. For a chance to win a pair of tickets, use the widget below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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We’re Moving!

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Amy West

Leakies, we’ve got something really special for you. We’re talking about #BFingPlaces (Oh!  The Places You Go!) for World Breastfeeding Month and we’ve taken it one step further. Literally.

We have every reason in the world to be physically active; heart health, longevity, reduced health problems, strength, endurance, lower blood pressure, stronger bones, joint health, mental clarity, better sleep, and decrease in depression and anxiety to name a few.  Several studies show that people who exercise more are just happier.  Which has always baffled me personally since exercise is kind of the opposite of happy for me.  Still, I know it’s good for me so I’ve tried to do it regularly and felt guilty when I didn’t.

With having children though, juggling family, home, and work (and yes, even when I didn’t have a job), getting exercise in is often an overwhelming challenge.  Between the media, “experts,” bloggers, friends, family, health care providers, and yes, even myself saying what is so important for children, there are just so many other aspects of a child’s development that require my attention.  There is every reason in the world to not be physically active; reading to our children, providing quality meals, addressing their social needs, researching all medications/foods/education, shopping to have the “best” deals on the highest quality (but the blanket MUST be organic, what about off-gassing?!), spending quality play time with our children, limiting screen time, grooming them, keeping house, bonding, learning and executing proper child passenger safety (installing that perfect car seat that took 3 weeks of research and a small loan to purchase) and being sure every minute of their every day is filled with only the best developmentally appropriate activities.  With all that’s on our plates, how do we find time to be physically active?

But really, how can we not?

We have perfectly legit reasons to not be moving and perfectly inspiring reasons to get moving.  It’s not easy sometimes but it’s definitely worth it.

I was born with a minor heart condition, something I’ve lived with all my life.  Doctors have told me that keeping my weight in a healthy range and staying physically active will go a long way in taking care of my health and sure enough, I can tell when I’ve put on a few too many pounds, have let inactivity sneak into my routine, or am lazy about my water intake.  I try to make it a priority but I’m just not crazy about most forms of exercise.  I’m not the type to become a health nut, I’m not likely become an exercise fanatic, and I don’t like exercise for exercise’s sake.  Something else has to motivate me to get off my butt and get moving.

Turns out I have 6 really talented motivators.  I want to be around for a long time to be with my children and eventually my grandchildren and I can’t afford to wait to get started.  They inspire me and not only for my own health, but for the health of my whole family.  And now they’ve inspired me to share that motivation with you!

Actually it was Amy West’s idea, she came to me about how regularly taking walks was helping her in her immediate postpartum time.  Her mood, emotional state, and energy levels went up as she walked with her two kids, Ava and Luke.  I agreed and we wanted to find a way to share it with the Leakies and their families.  And with that, #TLBmoves was born.

It’s time for #TLBmoves!

And I hope you’ll get moving with me for your own reasons.

Are you a runner? Walker? Cross-fit fan?  Couch potato looking to change? Or maybe you just want to be screen-free a little more often.

Whatever your goal, you can join us for #TLBmoves!  This is all about embracing an active lifestyle and making healthier choices, no matter where you’re starting from.

Us? We’re starting by walking more. Just the simple act of taking a daily stroll can do amazing things for your health–both mental and physical! Our initial goal is to log a minimum of 10 miles (about 15,000 steps) each week, or 30 very active minutes each day, but you can set virtually any goal that’s important to you and participate in any way you’d like! (Quit smoking, play with the kids more, eat more veggies, do jumping jacks at your desk, living room dance party – anything goes!)

If you’re already doing that (or more), awesome! Whatever YOUR goal is, we want to see you reach it. #TLBmoves is not a fitness campaign; yeah, we’re talking about steps and activity, but the bigger goal here is overall health and happiness. You can participate at whatever level is comfortable for you: walking, jogging, running, cross-fitting, swimming – anything. (#TLBmoves is aimed at all moms of all backgrounds and is not limited to or specifically endorsing those who breastfeed.)  And we’ll never ask what’s your excuse, we know we all have great excuses so we understand that it’s one day, one step at a time to reach your personal goals.

#TeamTLBmoves! Meet the four mamas who will be sharing their #TLBmoves journeys during the month of August:

Jessica: Founder, owner, and author of The Leaky Boob Facebook group and website; mother of six girls, ages 2, 4, 6, 11, 13, and 15.

Amy: Writer (www.amywest.co); mother of two children, a five-year-old daughter and a three-month-old son.

Kileah: Member of the TLB Reviews editorial team; mother of four children, ages 6, 4, 2 and 8 months.

Elise: Member of the TLB Reviews editorial team; mother of one two-month-old son.

Meet our partners:

#TLBmoves is a big undertaking and we are so thrilled to be working with brands we believe in to bring you this event. Our partners really want to see moms getting active and enjoying a healthy lifestyle with their families! We’ll be sharing tons of photos of #TeamTLBmoves using gear from the following brands:

Joovy

JoovyWe are all about taking small steps to a healthier lifestyle – literally! Going for a daily walk with the little ones is one of the cornerstones of what we’re doing. Joovy has partnered with us to feature four of their kick-ass strollers, which we will put to to the test over the next month. You’ll see the TooFold, Qool, Caboose VaryLight, and Zoom in action. From the big kids to the littles, Joovy is making it easy (and whine-free!) to stroll with the whole family.

tula

Tula Baby CarriersWe aren’t just pushing our little ones in the strollers – we’re going to wear them, too! Whether it’s in the uber comfortable Standard or Toddler carrier, or in one of Tula’s amazingly gorgeous woven wraps, we’ll be wearing our babies throughout the month as we get out and move! Where will the #TULAlove turn up next? Stay tuned…

thinkbaby thinksport

Thinkbaby and ThinksportIt’s August, so the weather is hot. A big part of #TLBmoves is getting active outdoors (work that natural vitamin D!). A good, safe sunscreen and water bottles are necessities. Thinkbaby and Thinksport care as much as we do when it comes to keeping our families safe from harmful chemicals. We’re staying hydrated and keeping sunburns at bay, minus the endocrine disruptors!

When?
#TLBmoves will run from August 1st-31st, 2014, but we hope you’ll keep moving long after the end of the month! (We may have something up our sleeves to that end, too!)

How?
Participation is on the honor system. Counting steps can be fun, but the point isn’t a number (on a pedometer, scale, or otherwise) – it’s making healthy choices and becoming more active in general. It’s all about feeling good! Moms can track their activity via whatever means they choose. (You can use a FitBit, another pedometer, you can time three five-minute songs for a dance party in your living room – it’s up to you!)

Where?
Anyone, anywhere can participate! We’ll be announcing some fun prizes from our brand partners, and those are limited to the United States at this time, but the world is your oyster if you want to get active with us!

JOIN OUR PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP (Please note: this is a co-ed community where you’ll find support as we get active and make healthy choices together. Judgement free! Come as you are, this group is your #TLBmoves tribe!)

JOIN OUR FITBIT FORUM (The four #TeamTLBmoves mamas will be using FitBits to track our steps! They’re totally optional, but if you want to use one, you can grab yours here: http://bit.ly/TLBfitbit.)

Who?
You, your friends, your kids, your partner, your boss, your mom, your dad… anyone!  Though The Leaky Boob is focused on encouraging families primarily through breastfeeding, we support breastfeeding moms and everyone that supports them.  Breastfeeding isn’t a requirement to participate with TLB and #TLBmoves.  (If you are breastfeeding and you’re wondering about exercise and breastfeeding, we have an article all about that here.

We’ll have more updates soon – in the meantime, please follow TLB on Instagram to keep up with #TLBmoves. Use the hashtag #TLBmoves on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share your pics. We want to see what you’re doing to MOVE, mamas!

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The all budget parents gift guide

by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carriers

black and white gift

Not sure what to get the smart, hard working, dedicated parent friend, family member or partner in your life but you want to give them something?  Do they mean a lot to you and you want to express that through a gift but haven’t found just the right thing?  After all, they already have “everything” in their children, what could add to that?  I asked the Leakies over on The Leaky Boob Facebook page what they would want to receive to take the guess work out of how to find that perfect gift for any parent with young children.  Their responses were fantastic and creative, here I broke them down into three main categories to fit different budgets and time.

Free

Just costs a little time (and maybe some common supplies you’d already have on hand).

In today’s hectic pace of life, time sometimes seem more valuable than money even more than the saying “time is money.”  Nothing communicates care, love, support, and value like investing time in someone.  Most of the gifts in this category were ones that obviously held a lot of value to those moms with infants young children posting.

Sleep.  This was the most mentioned suggestion.  Parents, particularly parents with young children want sleep.  Partners, this could be an easy one to give, depending on your schedule.  You each could give each other the gift of sleeping in once a week on a set day.  It can work out to be a great benefit to all of you, special time with the kids for the partner getting up and catching up on sleep for the partner sleeping in.  Naps and early bed times can be helpful too and don’t have to come from the partner.  A friend takes the kids to the park, a relative comes over in the middle of the day, or a trusted neighbor bakes cookies with the kids for an hour.  A little bit of extra rest can go a long way.

House cleaning.  So many moms posted they’d love someone to come help with some house cleaning.  A load of dishes, run the vacuum, sweep, dust, even fold some laundry.  Not every woman is going to want someone to come clean their house so be sure you check with them or know them well enough before gifting this.  Pull out all the stops and send the whole family packing for a day out while you attack their house, they’d get special family time and come home to a tidy place.  And partners, unless it is clear between the two of you that cleaning is her job or you have designated household chores, you gifting cleaning is like saying “here honey, my gift to you is to help with the responsibility of caring for our family.  I wouldn’t give her that unless you’re ready for your next gift to be “I gave birth to our children.”

Playmate for kids.  Could be you or someone you know.  Some older kids can do the trick too, my 10 year old can be incredibly interactive with younger kids, she gets so into playing with them in a way that makes me question my attention span and wonder “how can she keep going like that?”  This could be free or very inexpensive, a neighbor child or older child of a friend would be happy to play for a couple of hours in exchange for a few dollars or trip to get ice cream.  Having that arranged for them could make that mom or dad’s day and give them the chance to read a book, clean without “helpers”, or maybe even shower.

Shower or bath.  The key to this being a real gift for the parent of young children is one word: “uninterrupted.”  Entertain the kids and protect that bathroom door and the parent gifted “one uninterrupted shower” will feel like they won the lottery.  Ramp it up with a prepared bubble bath with candles, snacks, a book, warm towel and robe, and a glass of wine or a cup of tea and you’ll make their year.  Gift this as a regular thing once a week or so packaged in a simple basket of homemade sugar scrub, a special candle, and bubble bath and watch as they become a more relaxed, centered version of themselves again.  And cleaner too.

Massage.  Not everyone is a professional masseuse but a little bit of an internet search can give you some techniques for a truly relaxing massage.  Shoulders, feet, head, back, or whole body, a massage that’s expectation free *cough* not expected to lead to sex *cough* not only feels good but communicates wanting to be close just because.  Ever held an average diaper bag, unfolded a stroller, or moved a car seat?  Moms and probably dads too end up with a lot of muscular tension from the small people they love so much needing to be held, picked up, played with, and the giant juggling act that comes with caring for a family.

Childcare.  Be it one time or reoccurring, if you are a trusted friend or family member and know that you deserve being such, your gift of babysitting so the parents could go out or stay in would probably mean more than words could express.  Date night, girls night out, time to grocery shop alone, or pedicures, it’s a gift of time and very possibly sanity.  But this isn’t just a gift for the parents, it’s a gift for the family.  Parents that have time to care for themselves and their partner if they have one tend to be able to find the energy to be the kind of parents they want to be.  When parents are stressed and don’t get down time it can be challenging for the entire family.  Plus, those children get the gift of another trusted adult relationship in their lives, an invaluable contribution to the people they are becoming.  If this gift is politely turned down, please don’t take it as a rejection, it may just be they aren’t ready to leave their child or feel their child isn’t ready to leave them and it’s likely not about you anyway.

Elving.  This goes with another one of the gifts suggest above.  When you spend time with the kids so the parents can have some time, take the opportunity to help guide some creative expression for your little charges if they are old enough.  A hand print picture or other kid craft or art will have a lot of meaning when someone else helped them do it and it will genuinely be a surprise.

Clean out the car.  As parents we worry about things like projectiles in the car but it can be difficult to keep on top of cleaning our vehicles out.  Maybe it’s just a vacuum or maybe it’s going to take a trash bag, cleaning out the space where many moms and dads spend a good chunk of their time can mean more peaceful drives.

Help.  In parenting fantasy land, relaxing may only come at the end of the day when everyone is in bed.  Reality though often keeps this fantasy just out of reach with dinner clean up, dishes, preparing for the next day, house cleaning, and maybe that elusive shower if they’re lucky.  By the time they do get to sit down for a moment… they fall asleep in some awkward position.  Having help for even 30 minutes in the time between dinner and bed time could mean the difference between the parents getting an hour to sit and focus on something that nourishes them.

Notice.  This one is simple and not really something you can package specifically until you know exactly what it is.  Pay attention.  What does this parent regularly end up dealing with that could be frustrating?  For many moms with young children and particularly a breastfeeding child it’s things like not having the chance to eat a hot meal because they end up getting up and down a lot through the meal to meet everyone else’s needs or, because breastfeeding babies have radar for “mom is getting to eat!” and have to breastfeed.  Getting to eat a hot meal and sit through it could be just what she would enjoy.  But whatever it is that the parent you want to get something special for would really appreciate, you’ll have to pay attention.  My husband made me feel really special when he saw how frustrated I was with how my closet and dresser were (not) organized because I hadn’t found the time and one day while I was out grocery shopping he got the kids involved in tackling organizing my clothes.  It may not be exactly how I would have done it myself but it is much better than it was and I really appreciated it.  It also meant that all my “pretty” undergarments were easily accessible.  😉

Understanding.  It is easy to feel like we’re not doing good enough for our families, friends, society, and ourselves.  One Leaky shared that she would love to not feel rushed, punished, guilted, or resented for doing something for herself.  Whether that is coming from her partner, other family, friends, her children or even herself, having someone understand and care could be the difference between her constantly feeling depleted and having confidence and energy.  A little bit of understanding, compassion, and support can go a long way and the pay offs are significant even if they take a while to be evident.

You.  We didn’t do it often but my friend Monette once suggested that I come over to her house or she to mine after the kids were in bed.  We loved it.  It meant she showed up at my house at 8.30 with a bottle of wine and a bar of fine chocolate to share.  She would leave by 9.45 but that hour and 15 minutes was cherished time.  Find ways, get creative, and don’t be afraid to make suggestions for simple and short ways to connect.

Coupon Book.  This one is particularly good for partners to give but good friends, siblings, parents, and even kids would be appropriate givers of such a gift.  Fill it with all the good stuff listed above, cheap and easy, just takes some effort.  You could include some more simple coupons such as “good for 10 back scratches” or “make the bed.”

Many of these would work well from one mom-friend to another.  With my kids, bringing another child or set of children into our home often ends up keeping my own kids entertained and while it can be some extra work too, it’s nice for my kids to be busy with someone else.  I often find I end up with the gift of going pee all by myself because the kids are too busy with their playmates to accompany me.

Homemade and inexpensive

Unless you make it expensive

Printed snapshots and family photos.  Not necessarily professional quality as that can become quite costly, but if they have an Instagram account or share photos on Facebook, surprising them with a curated selection of their family photos would be quite meaningful.  If you have the time, organizing them into a photo book or scrapbook is very special.

Homemade freezer meals or a meal delivered hot.  Some communities are great about this after a baby is just born or illness has hit a family but imagine getting a meal just in the middle of regular life?  Or having someone make several for the freezer, even better if they just get thrown into a crockpot for cooking all day.  A relaxed dinner party to share the meal together is also a way to gift not only a meal but the gift of your time together.  That’s not a gift of just food, it’s a gift of time!

Food in a jar.  With everything premeasured, a mason jar with all the dry ingredients and the recipe is a delicious gift of one worry-free meal.

Just about anything handmade.  Parents understand how time becomes a hot commodity when you have kids.  Knowing you took the time to make them something is touching.  Useful items such as slippers, hot pad holders, dish towels, bath salts, etc., become not only treasured handmade items but every day reminders of how you thought of them.

Give a gift that will make them do the happy dance

Give a gift that will make them do the happy dance

Get your shopping on

Online, in a boutique, the grocery store, or the mall, it will cost as much as you’re willing to spend.

A bathrobe. This is especially nice if you’re going to help him/her make sure they has time for a shower or bubble bath from time to time.  A Leaky shared:

“As corny as this is going to sound, my husband let me open one of my presents last night and it was a soft fluffy bathrobe. It’s probably the best present I’ve ever gotten and I almost cried thinking that he paid attention more to unspoken wishes than things that are said.”

An experience.  This may require childcare but the gift of an experience outside of their normal routine can be refreshing, energizing, and provide perspective.  Be it something extravagant or something simple, an experience is a wonderful gift.  A friend once gave me the gift of going zip lining with her and that 45 minutes flying through the trees that day was cleansing and revitalizing to my weary spirit at that point.  I will treasure the memories and time together and now I can’t wait to regift that experience to her.  For some, getting a pedicure or some spa treatment could be all the experience they desire, but anything from a gift card to go shopping alone for a couple hours or a night out bowling or tickets to MommyCon, to a groupon for paddle boarding or zip lining or tickets to a show, to a luxurious weekend getaway, an experience is never forgotten.

Jewelry.  I used to hate the idea of getting jewelry as a gift but then my husband surprised me with a pearl necklace I would have never selected but I ended up loving.  One of my favorite things about that necklace is I would never have had the courage to pick that out for myself but I love it, even more so because he got it for me.  Now receiving jewelry from him and even others has broadened my appreciation for styles I previously would have dismissed as not suiting me.  I love that these pieces always make me think of the giver.

Comfortable footwear.  Slippers, socks, even a comfortable pair of shoes (could be partnered with a shared experience of shopping to get the right size) are great for parents.  We’re on our feet a lot and having footwear that makes that a little more comfortable is a great thing.

The arts.  Be it to hang on the wall, play on the stereo, watch on the TV, read, or attend, the arts speak in ways we can’t manage on our own.  When my husband had the print of my favorite painting framed that had been stuck in a tube for years waiting for the right frame, I actually cried.  It meant so much to me.  A collection of beautifully bound poems by one of our most loved poets whom we had often read together when we were dating was equally moving, then there was the time he was thrilled I took him to the symphony when they were performing the piano concerto that made his heart flip, both of us have found ourselves inspired when given a beautiful journal, and more recently tickets to a musical I’ve been dying to see made me do a little dance in excitement.

Activity and engagement.  Encourage physical fitness with a gift that will get them moving.  When you’re a parent of small children it’s easy to forget to get moving more than trying to keep up with our kiddos.  But since modeling is the best way to teach our children, being intentional about being active is worth the effort for the health of the whole family.  A bike, a yard game to play as a family, or accessories that compliment whatever activity they are already enjoying communicates support in the endeavor of family health.  One Christmas we were given a bike trailer that hitched to one of our bikes for the little ones and suddenly we were more than happy to ride more including trips to the grocery store.  Our overall health benefitted.

Something practical.  For the kitchen, the house, the car, the yard, technology, or just for them, a gift that they can use that simplifies every day life is often greatly appreciated.  Pay attention though, be sure it’s something they need or want and you’ll make their day.

A couple of quick “don’ts”

Hint.  Gifts that are meant to be a hint are more hurtful than meaningful.  That fancy new vacuum cleaner you think they could use because it looks like their vacuum cleaner must be broken or that high dollar blender you were eyeing so maybe they would be inspired to cook more or, heaven forbid, that gym membership you think they could/should really use when they have never expressed an interest in joining a gym could come across as critical.  Not only may they not be appreciative, they may be hurt even though that’s not what you intended.  A carefully planned conversation could help you suss out how such a gift would be received, if you’re not sure, maybe pass and if you realize you are considering a gift as a way to drop a hint maybe one of the best gifts you could give is to drop such passive aggressive strategies and work on making your relationship authentic and healthier.

When in doubt, don’t.  One of the most mentioned dreaded gifts from the Leakies were clothes that weren’t useful, weren’t their style, or the absolutely worst, don’t fit.  Unless you have overwhelming confidence that you know their size and style, gifting just about anyone clothing is like navigating a minefield.  Proceed with caution and a gift receipt.

Have strings attached.  Ever.  To anyone, parent or not.  Reminding people of the gift you gave them as though they owe you or need to continually wallow in appreciation just kills relationships.  Give, no strings attached.  It’s ok to remind them if they seem to have forgotten you gave them the gift of babysitting or your time otherwise though, they may have either forgotten or felt like it was too much to bring it up themselves.  Just no strings.

Take it personally.  If your gift isn’t a huge hit, don’t take it personally.  Maybe their tastes changed, maybe they are insecure, maybe they are just really tired, who knows.  But don’t assume it’s about you.  And if you never see them use it, just let it go.  Gift giving can feel really great but ultimately once we give the gift we have to let it go.

 

What would you like to receive?  What’s your favorite gift to give to a parent?  

Happy giving!

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Eighteen ways to support your breastfeeding partner and a Beco Soleil giveaway

This post made possible by the generous support of Beco Baby Carrier

Babywearing daddy

When talking about breastfeeding we naturally spend a lot of time and energy working with, talking to, and sharing about women and babies so it may come as a surprise to you to hear that I feel breastfeeding is not a women’s issue, rather a humanitarian issue.  Which means it’s a men’s issue too.  Breastfeeding may seem like it’s about moms and babies but in reality breastfeeding is about the family and all of humanity.  It matters not just to those doing it and those receiving it but the value of breastfeeding extends to those that used to breastfeed, those who support those who breastfeed, those who know someone who breastfeeds, those who love someone who breastfeeds, and those that helped make the baby that breastfeeds.

Partners, this post’s for you.

I thought about having Jeremy write a post on dads and breastfeeding related to Father’s Day but that was about the equivalent of saying “hey, it’s the holiday to celebrate you… here’s more work for you to do!”  Instead we’re heading down the “brag about your partner” path.

Recent research suggests that one of the most important contributing factors in a woman reaching her breastfeeding goals is the support she receives.  Those closest to her and health care professionals can have the most impact on her breastfeeding experience.  Partners, this means you!  Your role in breastfeeding, even though you’re not the one putting the baby to your breast, is not to be minimized.  You matter, a lot.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you help support a mom according to her needs, she will fall more in love with you.  Check out this thread on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page to see more about that.  Women are strong and determined and are equipped to breastfeed just fine on their own without support but when we don’t have to… it’s a beautiful thing.

I’m confident I could breastfeed just fine without The Piano Man’s support but I am grateful I have my partner’s support non the less. With so much emphasis put on being a “real man” in culture today it could be easy for him to not be willing to support me breastfeeding or think there’s no room for his involvement but his role is important, valuable.  Real man?  There is little I find more attractive than an involved partner, equally parenting in a setting of equal support and respect for each other’s contribution in the family.  That’s sexy.  And totally worth celebrating.

Eighteen ways to support your breastfeeding partner and bond with your baby

  1. bath time- a favorite recommendation for the non-breastfeeding partner is bath time.  It gives mom a break, accomplishes an important tasks, creates an opportunity for skin-to-skin, and can’t be multitasked.
  2. play time- even from the time they are first born, babies play.  The method just changes.  As newborns, talk to them, hold a toy steady for them to examine, holding them securely rock and dance with them.  As they grow, the play becomes more active.  I love watching my husband play with our children no matter what their age, they bond, I get a break, and I see the tender, fun-loving side of my husband that I love so much.
  3. get her water and make her be comfortable for feedings- breastfeeding is primarily between the mom and baby but there is no reason others can’t be involved.  Sit with them, talk with them, physically support her and metaphorically support her, be involved in the connection.  Even if it is 2am.  By taking care of her by getting her water, snacks, pillows, or anything else she needs, you are involved in the feeding and care of your child.
  4. learn about breastfeeding- read the science behind breastfeeding and encourage her by sharing that information.  Find resources and share them with her, learn what a proper latch looks like, and ask her what you can do to help.  If she’s pumping, help set up the pump and wash parts.  You don’t have to be left out but you may have to involve yourself.
  5. encourage her- think your partner breastfeeding is amazing?  TELL HER.  Do you think the expression on her face when she looks at your baby at her breast is beautiful?  Let her know.  Are you proud of her?  Respect her?  Communicating your support and doing so often goes a long way in her feeling like you’re really present.
  6. make the call- is she struggling with breastfeeding?  Is she in pain?  Worried?  Find the name and number of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and make the call.  Then get her to the appointment.  You could be responsible for saving that breastfeeding relationship.
  7. run interference- is there an annoying individual pressuring her to use formula?  Find ways to keep them at bay.  Has someone criticized her breastfeeding?  Ask her if she wants you to say something or just wants your quiet support while she stands up for herself.  In those early days, help her get the rest she needs and hold the boundaries for her to heal from birth well so she can focus on establishing her milk supply.
  8. adjust expectations- things have changed, her body, the family dynamic, sleep, you name it.  Having your expectations remain the same simply isn’t realistic and it could greatly damage your relationship.  For everyone, have a discussion about realistic expectations in everything from financial decisions to responsibilities, from conversations to chores, from physical intimacy to sleep.  Be real and be flexible and you will all end up stronger.
  9. massage- offer to give your partner a back rub and even if she’s touched out, she’ll probably welcome that physical closeness.  Learn infant massage and give your partner some space to herself while you soothe and care for your child.  Massage is powerful.
  10. send her away- if baby is fed, consider sending your breastfeeding partner out of the house for an hour or so while you take on all the care.  Bonding with your baby while she’s gone and giving her some time to hear her own thoughts can strengthen you all.
  11. cosleep- while it may not be for everyone, done safely, cosleeping provides the space for some deep connections for the family.  Do your research before making the decision and if you cosleep make it an intentional choice (not falling asleep on accident on the couch with your newborn) and you’ll find it simplifies breastfeeding at night and puts you right there to not miss out on any of the night time parenting opportunities.
  12. get up- maybe you could sleep through all the night time feedings but if you wake and help get baby (if they aren’t right there in the bed with you already) then you become the promise of milk for your hungry baby.  It can be pretty lonely feeding a baby in the middle of the night, don’t miss out on the chance to be present with them.  Get up, change the diaper, hand baby to mom, get her a drink of water, and keep her company before you go back to sleep.  Everyone will think you’re pretty awesome.
  13. solids- when it’s time to introduce solids, get involved in the action!  However you decide to get your baby started on solids (check out baby led weaning or baby led solids- SO fun!) there’s lots of room for the non breastfeeding partner to take the led.  You’ll have a blast and so will your baby and chances are strong your partner will love watching you help your baby explore new tastes.
  14. do some chores- think about it this way, if you help with the stuff around the house like dishes, laundry, vacuuming, etc., you free up more time for all of you to connect and rest.  This will help your bond with your child by modeling healthy adult behavior and balance and by making sure their mother isn’t too drained and stressed.  This will help your bond with your partner because while doing the dishes isn’t exactly sexy, her NOT having to do them is.
  15. diaper changes- sure, it’s poop and pee but it happens regularly and is a great opportunity for face to face interactions.  Hearing my husband talk to our baby or make silly faces that make them laugh as he changes their diaper always makes me smile.  I love that he’s such a good dad.
  16. cook- whatever it is, learn to cook something and do it regularly.  Humans bond over food which is part of why breastfeeding is such a bonding experience but it doesn’t stop there.  Cooking for your partner and your children forges deeper connections, sharing that meal together (and expressing gratitude for the one that prepared the food!) is sharing a nourishment that reaches the soul.
  17. soothe- if, for some strange reason, the breast can’t soothe your upset child at some point, take a turn trying to soothe them.  I’m not sure how but my husband has a magical soothing touch and there has been a point with all of our children where he is the only one that can comfort them and get them to settle to sleep.  Even the boob won’t work.  When he gets them calmed, I’m calm knowing they were in the arms of someone that loves them as much as I do.
  18. babywearing- all the celebrities are doing, wearing a baby is the trendiest accessory these days.  Seriously though, get a carrier you feel comfortable in and take turns with your parter having your baby attached to your body.

Real Men of AP Jamie Grumet

My friend Jamie Grumet from I Am Not the Babysitter celebrates these involved partners too and I just love her “Real Men of AP” series highlighting attached dads, see her post about her husband Brian, A Real Man of AP.  From babywearing to breastfeeding support, Real Men of AP are the partners that aren’t afraid to forge deep connections with their children, biological or otherwise, even if it means bucking what society tells them is required to be a “real man.”  Nurturing, giving, and in tune, these guys step up their manliness factor not in spite of but because they participate in tea parties, run the vacuum, and with lots of cuddles.

This post went live Thursday and then vanished as a result of some technical problems.  Preparing our eldest daughter to leave for the rest of the summer, I tried to juggle the issues with the site and having my attention focused on her and getting her ready to leave on Father’s Day.  The Piano Man encouraged me to let it go and just be present with my family.  So this post is late, very late, but somehow it feels right that it’s so late because it was my very own Real Man of AP that saw my stress in the midst of it all and reminded me of what’s really important and I took the time needed to pour into my family and it was good for my heart.  When I think of the guy I co-parent with I see the guy that helps me be the kind of parent I want to be even when external circumstances make that challenging.  A man that reminds me it can be ok to disappoint others in some areas so I can be so present with my family.  Today that’s what I think of when I think of my Real Man of AP.

The Leaky Boob is teaming up with Jamie and Beco Baby Carrier for a great giveaway and sharing information about how to form strong connections with our children.  We want to see the Real Men in your life and how they are attached and connecting with your children, whatever that looks like.  Then on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 10am Central, we’re having a live chat sponsored by Beco Baby Carrier with Jamie Grumet from I am not The Babysitter about developing those attachments with our children, babywearing, discussing attachment parenting, and taking a look at parenting beyond a theory or philosophy in the real world.  Share your images and stories of a Real Man of AP and enter for a chance to win one of 3 Beco Soleils (retail value $130/each) and attach drool pads, a coordinating hood, and an infant insert with accessory pack (retail value $40/each) and you can keep the attachment going with a carry-all bag (retail value $25/each) that attaches to the carrier.  Let’s show the world what a Real Man of AP looks like, use the hashtag #RealMenofAP on twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and FB so we all can see (and tag us!) and we’ll share our favorite images on the Facebook pages of I Am Not the Babysitter, Beco Baby Carrier, and The Leaky Boob and visit the Real Men of AP tumblr.

Beco Soleil dad

Quick info on the Beco Soleil:

  • 3 carry positions: front, hip, and back.
  • Built-in waist belt pocket, key and toy ring
  • Carries 7-45lbs
  • Carrier weight 1.1lbs
  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Seat: 16″ and 17″ tall
  • Shoulder straps extending from 18″ to 45″
  • Waist belt extending from 27″ to 59″
  • Recommended fit for adults 5′ to 6′ 5″
  • Compatible accessories: hood, drool pads, infant insert, carry-all

Good luck and we look forward to seeing and hearing your pictures and stories!  See the widget below to enter.
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Community and sex

Beyond Moi Jessica and Jeremy Martin-Weber

Community and sex.

Those 2 really don’t sound like they go together.  They don’t.  Not really.  But I’m talking about them on May 19th at MommyCon Austin anyway, just not at the same time.

Well, I’m not planning to talk about them at the same time.  We’ll see what happens.  You never really know.  Because when you’re talking about finding your parenting community talking about what made you a parent in the first place may just come up.

I had a great time at MommyCon Las Vegas even though I got asked to cover at the lunch by someone unaffiliated with MommyCon in a kind of bizarre turn of events.  That incident aside, the whole experience was a lot of fun.  Getting to meet the companies sponsoring, connecting with the moms and other presenters, making new friends, and talking about parenting… and sex.  In that space of 24 hours, I saw moms (and dads) connect, broadening and deepening their community while educating themselves and finding encouragement along the parenting journey.

Personally, I’ve never really been a fan of “mom” events.  They tend to scare me.  Like an extension of high school I always seem to be wearing the wrong brands, sporting the wrong hair style, and blundering into the wrong topics in conversation.  Between laughing at the wrong things at times and not getting why everyone else was laughing at other times, I have typically felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb at mom events.  Instead of leaving encouraged and with friends, I tended to leave feeling more alone than when I came.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to speak at MommyCon.  Like being the awkward kid stuck standing up naked in front of everyone in a crazy nightmare, I figured speaking at a mom centered event could only be worse than attending one.  Even better, I was talking about being an imperfect parent and sex, because what could be more awkward than that?  But if The Leaky Boob has taught me anything, it’s that we all need community and having someone be openly honest about the struggles they’re having can be all it takes to unleash a torrent of support from those that have been in that same place.  Every time I see a Leaky open up and share vulnerably I am amazed at how powerful it is not only for them but for those that were quietly struggling and feeling alone.  So I went, opened up, and found my own connections with others, some that have had similar journeys and some that have had wildly different ones.

And it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected.  In fact, I’ve signed up to go again this time sponsored by Kanga Care and talking about finding our parenting community and why we need it.

But this time I get to go with my family and The Piano Man is joining me from our joint blog Beyond Moi, to have the sex talk.  I’m really looking forward to our session sharing in a relaxed setting what 16 years of marriage, several years as marriage mentors, and books and counselors have taught us when it comes to sex.  Honest and forthcoming, we’re not ones to sugar coat or pretend nor pander to stereotypes.  We will, however, be sharing some Milk Maker Cookies at our session on sex.  And going beyond the grown up sex talk for couples, we’ll share how we approach the topic with our own children and encourage dialogue about how our own attitudes, experiences, and perspectives of sex as parents can influence our children.  We can move beyond ourselves and our fear of having “the talk” with our children and into developing a healthy perspective on sex for ourselves and our children.

Community and sex.  There’s no avoiding these issues in real life and as moms and dads, recognizing the value of both and coming to terms with their place in our lives helps us guide our children.  We need each other and we need to be bold enough to talk about these realities.

If you’re going to be at MommyCon Austin, Jeremy and I will be around and we’ll have some goodies with us to share thanks to the great companies we felt comfortable partnering with to sponsor our sessions at MommyCon Austin.  Find me (Jessica) and let me know just how RUMPTASTIC MommyCon is and the first 20 I talk to that say so will receive a free Rumparooz cloth diaper from Kanga Care and a fun something for anyone after that.  Talk to Jeremy and tell him how much you enjoy cookies and milk because he’s giving out Milk Makers Cookies and not just to breastfeeding moms.

_________________________

Joining us at MommyCon in Austin on the 19th?  We’d love to meet you.  There’s a code just for TLB readers to get $10 off their registration, just use Leakyboob when you buy your tickets.  Need a better deal than that?  Enter to win a pair of tickets as a couple!  Along with a pair of tickets to MommyCon Austin, this prize bundle includes a Beco Soleil with drool pads in the winner’s choice of Micah or Stella, a Kanga Care Rumparooz in the new print Dexter and one in crimson, and a $50 gift certificate to Milk Makers Cookies!  Use the widget below to be entered.

 

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Supporting the Breastfeeding Family as a Whole

by Amber McCann, IBCLC
supporting the breastfeeding family as a whole
Recently, I was collaborating with a colleague as we worked through the nitty-gritty details of a challenging situation one of my clients was having. As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I work with families to support their breastfeeding and, while my job is incredibly rewarding, it also requires a LOT of “detective” work. This case was challenging my skills and knowledge and I reached out for help. As we sorted through the facts and brainstormed ideas, my colleague said to me, “I’m realizing that you alway lean towards  the side of the mom and I lean towards the side of the baby.”

The comment caught me off guard. I wasn’t offended because I make no apologies for the fact that connecting with mothers is my “sweet spot”. I also don’t believe that I nor my colleagues ever sacrifice one member of the breastfeeding relationship to the exclusion of the other. But it did cause me to think and reflect on how, as a professional, I approach the work I do. Do I miss critical pieces of the puzzle because I’m so focused on the mother’s well being? Do I forget the important role that dads and partners play in the family? Do I miss the most vulnerable person in the whole dynamic…the tiny baby herself? (*Cue dramatic soul searching)

 

I came to this realization:

Breastfeeding support that doesn’t recognize the family as a whole FAILS.

Breastfeeding is much more than one breast, one baby, one mother, and one belly that needs nutrition. It is also getting to know each other, communicating, finding balance between all parties, and connecting on an intimate and vulnerable level. While I certainly do not claim that these experiences happen only in breastfeeding families, I do believe that breastfeeding imparts benefits that go far beyond calories and weight gain.

For that reason, I think it is critically important that, as those who support breastfeeding, we see the breastfeeding family as a whole. Much of the conversation in breastfeeding support centers around whether someone is doing it the “right way”: no supplements, pacifiers, bottles, cribs, you have to wear your baby, don’t you dare give cereals before 6 months, breastfeed until they are two, breastfeed while you are pregnant, breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed…and if you don’t do it this way, you are a failure. It simply breaks my heart because, while each of these recommendations has value and impact in the broader issue of public health, these black and white messages often forget that, when it comes down to it, there are real people making real decisions for real families. We must move away from support that sees only the mother, only the baby, or only the breastfeeding.

Decision Making is Up to the Family

As a clinician, I must take a full health history of both the mother and baby in my care. Inevitably, this becomes what is, for many women, the first telling of their birth story to someone outside of their family. It is an incredibly raw and vulnerable experience. I learn of relationships, of history, of fears and of disappointment. I also hear of how she was proud of herself, of her strength and her tenacity. Every woman’s experience, both before and after birth, is wildly different. Each family is to be respected in their decision making. What is the right decision in birth, in breastfeeding…heck, even in what to do with their Saturday afternoon, is up to them, filtered through the lens of their experience, their history and their knowledge. There are things about the way I live my life that I believe deeply in, but this I believe more: Mothers are smart and incredibly capable of making the decisions that are best for their families. My job is to provide information, help them sort through their options and allow them to space to figure out what is best for them…even if what is best for them is not what I would have chosen.

She is About More than her Breasts

As advocates, sometimes we work so hard on the big picture ideas in regards to improving breastfeeding rates and cultural acceptance that we make the mistake of seeing each woman as one to be “conqured”…wishing only to “win her to our side”. Supporting breastfeeding on a macro level is tough work which takes huge volumes of energy, but what a disservice when we think of women as only check marks in the “initiated breastfeeding” or “exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months” columns.

Often, in an attempt to support breastfeeding, we forget that there is much more going on in this relationship than milk ejections and swallowing. The community supporting those with Insufficient Glandular Tissue and Low Milk Supply do this beautifully. Inspired by Diana West’s groundbreaking book Defining Your Own Success, these women champion the idea that THEY get to be the ones who decide what breastfeeding will look like for them, in light of significant challenges. We must look at breastfeeding women not as simply milk makers, but life makers and relationship makers and confidence makers as well.

Empower Parents for Long Term Impact

I’m absolutely convinced that the early days of of a baby’s life are critical to the formation of parenting confidence. What if, instead of throwing checklists full of things that not even well-rested people could handle, we instill confidence and a “we were made for this” kind of attitude. I’ve long maintained that birth and breastfeeding are the only two biological processes that we, as a culture, assume won’t work the way they were designed to. From the moment we announce our pregnancies, we are bombarded with messages that tell us that we simply aren’t up for the task, that out bodies will fail us, that we won’t be good enough, smart enough, mom enough. Why then are we surprised when those messages continue on into parenthood? For those we encounter as breastfeeding supporters, we can have a significant impact at a critical moment. Reminding a woman that her body was made for breastfeeding, encouraging her to follow her “gut”, and listening closely to her ideas about what could improve her outlook can all be vitally important.  Moments like that set her up for future success. Feeling like “I am the most qualified person to care for my child” on Day 3 can often translate into the same feeling on day 5 and month 5 and year 5. Treating parents with respect and care and with the belief that they are wildly capable is critical.

The great Dr. Seuss was quite the philosopher when he penned, “A person’s a person, no matter how small” and I would echo with “A family is a family no matter how young.”  As we seek to pour our professional and volunteer lives into these brand new families, we must remember that communicating about their value and worth are important building blocks to their long term confidence as parents. I’m privileged to be able to be one of the first professionals to look them in brand new parent (bleary and bloodshot) eyes and say “You’ve Got This!”

Mothers are capable breastfeeding nourish breastfeeding support

 

 Amber McCann, IBCLC is a board certified lactation consultant in private practice  with Nourish Breastfeeding Support, just outside of Washington, DC and the co-editor  of Lactation Matters, the official blog of the International Lactation Consultant Association  (ILCA). She is particularly interested in connecting with mothers through social media  channels and teaching others in her profession to do the same. In addition, she has written  for a number of breastfeeding support blogs including Hygeia and Best for Babes. She also  serves as the Social Media Coordinator for GOLD Conferences Internationaland is a regular  contributor to The Boob Group, a weekly online radio program for breastfeeding moms. When she’s not furiously composing tweets (follow her at @iamambermccann) or updating her Facebook page, she probably snuggling with one of her three children or watching terrible reality TV.
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Sugarbaby Introduces Herself

by The Piano Man

Hello world, Sugarbaby here.  My name is Arden, or so I’m told.  Most of the time Sisters call me baby, but Mommy and Daddy are trying their hardest to get them to use my name.  I have 5 sisters!  And there’s never a lack of hands to hold me close, but my favorite place to be in the whole world, as I know it, is in Mommy’s arms.  Daddy’s ok, but there’s nothing like the smell, the touch, the feel of Mommy.  I’m pretty sure she feels the same way, because I can feel her face touching my head and I can hear her breathing me in as well.  I can’t imagine a happier place.

Mommy and Daddy noticed that I already dream when I sleep, but I’m not telling them if I dream of the last couple of days where everything is so bright, or of the day I left my first home, or of when I was still in that warm and comfy place before that.  It was getting really crowded in there, so it’s nice to be able to stretch out my arms and feel the emptiness around me in between my fingers.  But sometimes that makes me scared, and so Mommy or Daddy hold me close with my arms tight against my tummy, and I feel much better.  I really like being close, really, really close.  When I’m awake, and when I’m asleep.  All the time.

I really didn’t want to come out of Mommy’s tummy at first.  It was crowded in there, but I didn’t want to leave.  I would wiggle my head and refused to go through the right way.  But in the end, I decided to come out anyway, but it had to be my way.  And my way was without my head being squished.  Plus I waited until absolutely everything was just right, which took a while, and then I came out in one push.  Everyone was so surprised!  And then they said things like how big I was.  I guess I’m just a bit ahead of the curve, full of surprises.  They measured me and weighed me and determined that I was actually a week and a half older than they estimated.  But that was after I got some serious cuddle time with Mommy.  It was a little strange feeling her from the outside, but I really love the way she smells, and the way it feels to be against her chest with her arms around me.  Oh yeah!  I can smell!  And breathe!  I practiced all that before but it’s really different when you breathe liquid.  But all that practice really paid off.  The world is lot bigger than I imagined, but it’s ok because I have Mommy to hold me, and feed me.  Oh, and I eat!  That’s new too, but I really like it.  I could do it all day.  And don’t worry, this is all totally normal and your own baby can tell you all about that right here.

Anyway, when everybody saw me, they said things like how big I am, and how my head is perfect – which, of course it is, I worked hard to keep it that way! – and then later they said how I looked like a 3-month old Cosette!  That’s so funny.  She must have been teeny!

Well, I’m getting sleepy again.  I love to sleep.  I could do that all day too!  But before I go dream my secret dreams, I’ll give you some of the other information that those Other People seem to think is really important.

my full name: Arden Credence Martin-Weber – Arden is the name of a forest in England and the setting of a wonderful Shakespeare play they say is called As You Like It.  I’m going to read it later.  Arden means “ardent,” “passionate,” or “excited,” and I think I’m living up to that pretty well so far.  Credence means belief, faith, credibility.  Not sure where I stand on that one yet.

birth date: April 19, 2012 (I share a birthday with my godfather.  We were born 31 years and 30 minutes apart!)

birth weight: 8 lbs 10 oz – record breaking Martin-Weber baby! I may be the littlest but I’m the biggest too!  I rock.

birth length: 21 1/4 inches – not a record breaker, but still, I’m sure I’m long for my age.

I’m a girl – duh.  : )  And that’s just perfect for me.

I have a red birthmark on my forehead (wherever that is – I can’t see it), and it’ll probably fade with time, but it’s the same birthmark that my biggest sister, Ophélia, had, and also my wonderful uncle Preston.  It’ll probably fade with time, and pop up when I get angry, er, passionate about something, because that’s my name.  Arden.

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Blue hair, ultrasound, 5 girls, and Sugarbaby

This past week I dyed my hair blue.  Well, really teal and only chunks, not all of my hair.  I did this for no other reason than I wanted to and I needed to do something fun for me.  Being sick this long with pregnancy can get draining and getting in touch with my fun, pretty, living side seemed like a good step at the half way point of this pregnancy.  I thought nothing of it, dyed my hair, snapped a few pics, and shared with friends, family, and the online world.

Two things happened that surprised me.

1.  Some people were shocked, apparently they thought I was normal?

What does that even mean?

2.  I was asked if this meant we were having a boy.

Hmmmm… I never saw that second one coming.  The thought didn’t even occur to me, though I probably should have guessed some people would think that.  I am well aware, painfully so, that our culture places a heavy emphasis on blue for boys and pink for girls but since we don’t personally buy into, encourage, or support gender specific colors at all in our family, I sometimes forget that other people do.  But in our family, we all rock the colors we love just because we like them.  A favorite phrase around here is “pink doesn’t have a vagina and blue doesn’t have a penis and they don’t care what you have.”  We truly don’t believe that even a quick look at history or cultures reveal that color preference has any bearing on a child’s developing understanding of gender, who they are, and if they are male or female.  Nor do we believe there is any reason that one’s gender has any bearing on one’s color preference.  So instead of embracing what has essentially becoming a marketing gimmick designed to increase sales through “gender specific” individualized items, we just try to like what we like and be who we are.  Even if that means I have blue hair.  In our house, all colors are gender neutral, they are, after all, just colors.  By the way, we apply the same thinking to sparkles, flowers, bows, trucks, cars, trains, music, and any other inanimate object and our daughters interact with “boy” and “girl” play things equally.  We have what some would consider “girly girls” and some “tomboys;” both terms I hate since I don’t understand why they can’t just be “girls.”  They are each so different, so them, that their sex seems inconsequential.  Besides, this whole pink for girls, blue for boys thing is relatively new in the history of humanity.  Meaning it was all made up in the last 100 years anyway.  I love this article from Smithsonian.com looking at the history of assigned colors for specific sexes, specifically for baby boys and girls.

“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.  

I have to admit, I just find that whole fear the kid will be “perverted” if they are dressed in or play with items of the “wrong” color just silly and potentially seriously damaging.  The biggest problem I see with this whole ridiculous gender color thing is that much of society buys into the marketing hook line and sinker which means if you have a boy that loves pink and has a thing for sparkles he’s likely to face merciless teasing and unfortunately not just from his peers but likely from the adults in his life as well.

So far we bat for “team pink.”  Which I think is a stupid way of saying we have all girls.  Not thinking of the sexes as teams playing against each other in the great game of life I don’t understand this analogy nor do I quite grasp the desire for one sex over the other either way.  I know it’s real and I see many times parents hoping for a boy/girl and sometimes dealing with what has been called “gender disappointment” when they discover they’re not getting what they hoped for in terms of their expected child’s sex.  But I can’t even begin to identify with it.  Even more confusing is the fact there are quite a few people that assume The Piano Man and I know it all too well, that we are grieved to not have a son.  Worse, is that so many assume we’re having another child in an attempt to have a boy.

I’m not going to lie, this assumption angers me.  Chest tightening, face flushing, royally pisses me off.  In spite of telling myself these people mean well and are just curious, all I really hear is that we should somehow, for some reason be disappointed that we only have girls.  That this disappointment fuels our family planning decisions, the quest for having a child with the “right” genitals justifying adding to our family.  We have never considered having another child just because we wanted the other sex and we never would.  Back when we were adding baby #5 I had become practiced in hiding my feelings when such stupidity flew out of insensitive people’s mouths until one day when our 4 big girls were with us and we experienced a conversation that went something like this:

Woman:  “My, that’s a lot of girls, I hope dad is finally getting his boy this time.”

Me:  “We’re excited to be adding another little girl to our family.”

Woman:  “Oh you poor man!  You’ll just have to try again, so outnumbered.”

The Piano Man:  awkward laugh “I’m ok, love my girls.”

Woman:  “Of course, but every man needs a son, it’s just not the same.”

We awkwardly move away, ending the conversation.

The Storyteller, then age 8, comes up to The Piano Man and sliding her hand into his says:  “I’m sorry I’m not a boy daddy.  I wish I was a boy so you wouldn’t be disappointed and so alone.”  In a flash he held her close, looked into her eyes, and told her that woman was ridiculous.  The girls proceeded to tell us how they felt like everyone felt sorry for their daddy because he must be sad to not have a boy.  He assured them that he never had wanted a boy, he had only wanted them.

I never hid my feelings again.  Regardless of how well intentioned they are, someone says something insensitive about how we must want a boy, and they have positioned themselves in the direct line of fire of my pink and blue fast ball of correction as to just how stupid that assumption is and how hurtful it can be to my daughters.  If my daughters are present for the exchange it is possible I will be even more forceful and look for an apology directed to my 5 fabulous girls that my husband and I don’t regret in the slightest.  And don’t you dare pity my husband, he’s not outnumbered, this is his amazing family and we’re all on the same team.  “So screw you and your narrow minded views” might just be my ending flourish.  Not exactly eloquent but pretty to the point.

We are in no way, nor have we ever been, disappointed that we have not had a boy.  Nor have we ever decided to have another child in an attempt to have a boy.

Please note, I don’t look down on, judge, or think I’m better than someone that has been disappointed with not having the sex they had hoped for.  Everyone’s feelings are their own and just are what they are.  Given our society’s obsession with how we define the sexes, I don’t think it is surprising that some would be disappointed to not have one or the other.

For many people it is a big deal, I get that.  I understand it, even if I can’t identify with it.  Socially it is accepted that we’re going to at least want one of each sex and all that we associate culturally with the different sexes.  Sugar and spice and everything nice = girl.  Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails = boy.  Yes, we think it’s bullshit but for many it’s very real.  How I wish we could let go of our expectations and the marketing and just accept our children for who they are, not some narrow list of culturally defined expectations based on their sex but a rather embrace a complex range of individuality that may be influenced by their hormonal makeup without being all that is to them, their tastes, their activities, and their preferences.  Male and female are biological, masculine and feminine are cultural.  The range of masculine and feminine is huge, if we must pigeon hole them we need to at least recognize that the hole is so big we can’t even begin to narrowly define it.  I know how damaging it can be to individuals; as a woman that has long struggled with not enjoying being “nurturing” and other typically feminine defined character traits and interests, I’ve dealt with insecurities that maybe I’m not a “real woman.”  And I’m married to a man that is incredibly nurturing and not strong on many typically masculine defined character traits and interests, he’s dealt with insecurities that maybe he’s not a “real man.”  I can assure you, he is most definitely a real man and he tells me that I am most assuredly a real woman.

Tomorrow we find out Sugarbaby’s sex, provided Sugarbaby cooperates during the ultrasound, and yes, we do this even though we don’t care what sex this baby is (I explain why this is important to us here.)  I’ll go out on a limb and say what I think it is, knowing full well I could be wrong.  Since I first suspected I was pregnant I have felt this baby is another girl.  In fact, I feel I’ve known her name since I was in labor with Smunchie.  Even though I’ve been correct with all 5 girls before now, I wonder often if I’m wrong and “girl” is just my default setting after having 5 girls.  But I could be wrong and I would be more than fine with that.  Because it doesn’t matter to me.  All the big girls think girl too but they are open to having a brother, there will be no disappointment either way.  If Sugarbaby is a boy I would look forward to The Piano Man and I getting to raise a counter cultural son, just like we have enjoyed raising counter cultural daughters.  Another child embraced to be who they are, to buck cultural constructs defining their sex, and to enjoy discovering their unique personalities and interests.  Whatever sex, Sugarbaby is going to greatly enrich our family.

See Sugarbaby’s pregnancy announcement video here.

There are people rooting for us to have a boy, I know.  They want to see us have to “deal” with the shock having a boy would be after all these girls and think it would just be fun.  I figure having a boy will be a lot like having a girl, particularly at first and since we don’t plan on parenting differently based on the baby’s sex but rather adjusting our parenting based on the child’s individual needs the way we see it is it’s going to be an adjustment no matter what.  A wonderful adjustment, boy or girl, change is change and adding a family member is always a transition.  For a long time we always said we saw ourselves as “girl people” and even before we had children, we only imagined ourselves with girls.  Now I’m not even sure what that means, nor do I care since our daughters have taught us “girl” offers a huge range in personalities, interests, and actions.  Given that I’ve had my girls do all the typically considered “boy” things, including a big sister talking a little sister into getting into the toilet and flushing it to see what would happen, I’m confident we’ll be fine no matter what Sugarbaby throws at us.  Bring it kiddo, let’s have fun!

There is one major challenge I see if Sugarbaby is a boy: names.  Other than the one boy name we’ve had in our back pocket for the past 13 years of having babies, we just don’t have a boy name we love and we never have.  We joke that if Sugarbaby is a boy we’ll end up with Ophélia, Lavinia, Helena, Evangeline, Cosette, and Bob.  Or maybe George.  But Bob or George, there will be no fear of pink (or blue) here!

We will probably make an announcement of Sugarbaby’s sex at some point once we know but it will be a while yet.  Here’s what we did for Smunchie’s:

 

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