Newsletter: THE NEW MOM- Our Best Advice EVER!

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For the BRAND NEW MUM, or for the NEWLY-MADE-MOTHER in your life, this newsletter edition is just for YOU. Resources curated to keep, share, and change lives plus some special discounts! We welcome you and your new bundle. If that new baby stage is over for you, scroll down to our contribution from our sister sites that have nothing to do with babies and infant feeding for recipes, relationship stories, and reviews.

 

Dear Leakies,

How will parenting change you? Let me count the ways. We’ll start with 4 for now though.

Whether everything went according to the serene picture in your head or nothing like it at all, becoming a new parent is an experience like no other. Largely because all the preparation in the world doesn’t really prepare you and before you know it, parenting is sink or swim.

So you start swimming. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep SWIIIIIIIIIIIIIMING!

The reality is no matter how much you envisioned being a perfect parent, you will fail. I know, not very encouraging. But the sooner you accept that, the better it will be, you are not going to ever be a perfect parent. Parenting will change you and though you won’t be a perfect parent, you ARE the perfect parent for your child(ren). Flaws and all. There are glorious, amazing moments in parenting that will take your breath away. There are sweet, tender moments in parenting that will make you smile and treasure the little things. And yes, there are horrible, nightmarish moments in parenting that will cause you to question what you were thinking getting into this gig in the first place. All of the moments need the other moments.

Three ways parenting will change you:

You will redefine a good night’s sleep. And you’ll be amazed at how little can feel so good. Four months into parenting our second daughter, who had a personal vendetta against sleep, we had our first night with 4 hours in a row. Plus another 2 after that. It was amazing. I celebrated. Never mind that a year before a good night was 10 uninterrupted hours of sleep.

Clean takes on a new meaning too. So just how much like sour milk does that shirt you wore yesterday smell? On a scale of 1-10 if it’s a 7 it may likely pass as wearable.

You will need more storage on your phone. Sure, it’s popular to be annoyed with your friends posting pictures and videos of their kids all the time on social media but, OMG, you should have seen the way she discovered her fingers! You’re going to need more room on your phone.

Patience for yourself. At least I hope parenting changes you this way. If you are a perfectionist, this is particularly hard. In the end though, if you wouldn’t want someone treating your child the way you treat yourself, then you’re going to need to model that with how you treat yourself. Patience is key.

You’ve got this. You will keep swimming.

And for some of the more fun parts of parenting a newborn, see these 12 signs that you’re breastfeeding a newborn here.

Scroll down for more support for new parents, a great coupon code (20% off!) for a top that will convert all your shirts into breastfeeding tops, and for topics well beyond those baby days, see the sections from our sister sites OurStableTable.com andBeyondMoi.com.

GO HERE for an exclusive coupon code and MORE!

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What I Want My Daughters To Know About Motherhood- Feeding Babies

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Recently I was reflecting on why I started Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference and I thought back on my different feeding journeys with my daughters, looking back and wishing there were things I knew when I first started out that I know now. I considered writing a post to my young self but then I realized that the ones I really want to know now what I wish I knew then about infant feeding are my daughters. Before they embark on their own motherhood journey, before they begin feeding their own babies (yes, I’m assuming that out of 6 girls at least one of them will have children and I will get to be a grandparent), there are so many things I want them to know, I could write a book and not just on infant feeding. Respecting that their journey will be their own, not some version or extension of mine, what I want to share isn’t a how to nor is it a manual, it is more just… my heart. Why am I starting an infant feeding conference? My daughters are why.

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Dear Daughter,

From time to time I reflect on the days when you were new to the world, newer than you are now, which is still pretty new. Those days when you were tiny and fit snuggled on my chest with your arms and legs tucked under you, my hand supporting your little bum. I think about the smell of your head, the feel of your skin, the depth of your eyes. I smile as I remember arguing with your father and sometimes others that it wasn’t gas, you were actually really smiling in your sleep. Like precious family heirlooms, from time to time I reverently unpack the memories of your daddy gently swinging you on his arm during fussy periods of the day, how one of your big sisters would interact with you, the way you calmed when I held you, the seriousness with which you would watch light dancing on the wall, and other fragments of the time when you were the smallest big thing in my world.

Some of those cherished mental keepsakes have little barbs on them. They sting when I unpack them, no matter how careful I am. How you were taken away from me just after I had the first chance to hold you because I was hemorrhaging, the time I screwed up and dropped you due to careless use of an infant carrier (Oh sweetie, I tried to call Child Protective Services on myself), hours and hours of screaming that nothing would soothe and the obvious pain you were in (heads up, colic is hell), the stint in the hospital with RSV, and so many more. I could keep these painful memories locked up and forgotten but I don’t, though I don’t linger over them too long, they are an important part of the story we share.

A good number of those treasured memories so carefully packed in my mind are around feeding you. You, as babies do, ate often. Satiated is but a temporary state of being and babies stay there only for brief moment of visitation. Some of these memory gems are truly sublime, shining moments that reflect the light of my love, your beauty, and our connection in sparkling bursts of color from ever angel and with every turn. Some of them are more like clunky chunks of rough rock, the weight and texture of which can make me raw. There is beauty there, beauty only appreciated when the whole topography is viewed. I cherish them all.

My baby feeding story journey isn’t isolated to just feeding you. All 6 of my children have impacted me and feeding each of them has had a hand in shaping me as a mother and directly impacting how I parented. And so, there are a few things I really want you to know about feeding babies. This won’t give you everything you need to know but these, my strong, intelligent, and courageous daughter, are the things what I want you to know from my heart about feeding babies and I hope sharing this now feeds you in a new way.

Feeding is important. Very important. Feeding our babies is the most basic, most essential, most immediate, and most elemental aspect of parenting. It can be said, without fail, that not feeding your baby is parenting failure. Neglect. Abuse. This may seem obvious and it is, but it is also important in ways you wouldn’t first see.  In my experience, how our children come to us is a journey that shapes us much like rushing water can shape rock. Babies aren’t the only ones birthed, mothers are birthed through the arrival of their children into their lives. Likewise, how we feed our babies can lay a foundation for how we parent. Feeding can shore up our confidence as parents and it can tear it down.

But not that important. For as deeply as it can impact us, you’ll feed your babies so many times each day that it can become mundane. That’s ok. You don’t have to experience each moment feeding your baby as a super special time of bonding. That would be like expecting every meal with your significant other to be a candlelight dinner that you poured yourself into preparing and spent looking deeply into each other’s eyes. In the end, as long as the feeding happens, the important part is done. And because it has to be done so frequently, letting go of expectations as to how it happens can be freeing to enjoy each experience as much as possible without the stress.

You matter too. Before baby comes, everyone is all about the mother-to-be. After baby comes, everyone is all about the baby and the mom is little more than the easel holding up the masterpiece. With that comes all the opinions on how to care for, and certainly how to feed, the masterpiece. But you matter too. According to many, you’ll be doing it wrong. Even those who support the method you are using will find ways to tell you are doing it wrong. Everything is subject to such “support” when it comes to feeding your baby. Bottle feeding? You’re holding that bottle wrong, using the wrong bottle, giving a bottle at all… all wrong. Breastfeeding? You’re using the wrong position, the wrong pillows, the wrong place, the wrong timing, doing it at all… all wrong. Pumping? You’re using the wrong pump, the wrong setting, the wrong method, doing it at all… all wrong. With everyone focused on the adorable masterpiece, they will want to “help” you care for it “right.” In the process, some will forget about caring for you. Mothering may change how you see your body and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love may be the most wonderful to your child. Mothering will change your heart and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love about yourself may be the most wonderful to your child. Take care of you, your children will need you to, they need and love you. It may feel selfish but taking care of you is important in taking care of your baby. You matter. Find those that can genuinely support you and your goals in caring for your baby. Those who believe you matter too.

The system is broken. It is improving and I hope by the time you are embarking on this journey, the system will be in a much better place. Right now though, it’s broken. From uninformed health care providers to uninformed store managers, from predatory marketing to pushy breastfeeding supporters, from poor insurance coverage to poor maternity leave, from ignorant judgmental strangers on the internet to ignorant judgmental friends in person, the system of infant feeding support in our society is failing moms. It is imbedded in our culture and it is hurting people. That can change but only by addressing the system rather than individual parents. They, you, just need someone willing to support them as a person, not a conquest. There is a lot of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, fear, arrogance, and hope surrounding this and you will hear it but it isn’t really about you.

Science is cool. There’s a lot of it and you’ll want to take the time to be familiar with it before you head into feeding your babies. Not everyone agrees on the science, it’s worth hearing the various view points. Being informed and personally conscientious can help you tap into your own powerful confidence. Decide what makes sense to you, what works for you according to the information, resources, and support available to you within your personal context and individual circumstances.

But feeding babies isn’t science, it’s a relationship. At some point, all the information in the world, all the evidence, all the support, all the goals aren’t important any more. Because it is a relationship. You and your baby. You are the one who knows what that relationship needs, you are the expert, you are the one most qualified. Even when you feel like you aren’t. You taught me that what a baby really needs is a fully invested parent who lovingly cares for them. Listen to yourself and your baby and don’t let anyone else define your relationship, feeding or otherwise.

There is more, so much more about feeding I want to tell you but for now I’ll stop here. Except for this:

I believe in you. I support you. Whatever you need, I am here for you and plan to be there for you. Unless you ask me not to. But most of all, I love you. You’ve got this.

Love,

Mom

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What would you say to your children about infant feeding? How will you tell them the story of feeding them? What do you want them to know?

Milk BLO event graphic

I started Milk with MommyCon founder, Xza Higgins, with the goal to bring together health care providers, parenting advocates, infant feeding influencers, and parents for workshops, seminars, and connecting centered around conversation supporting feeding our babies.

Founded on the belief that infant feeding support makes a difference and can directly influence confidence levels in parents, MiLK focuses on information sharing and mindful support that builds parents up without tearing down, respecting the unique journey of each of us. MiLK aims to actively educate and support infant feeding by connecting health care providers and the families they care for discussing breastfeeding, formula feeding, breastmilk pumping, at the breast supplementing, bottle feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding… FEEDING. This is not, to be clear, a breastfeeding conference. It is an infant feeding conference with a goal of bringing together health care providers and parents where we can learn from each other.

Most importantly, I hope we learn how to really listen and what support can really looks like.

I hope you can me join me in Los Angeles, California, July 31st and August 1st. The speakers and panelists are all people I greatly respect, people that inspire me not only in my infant feeding journeys but in supporting others in their journeys as well. Offering 9.25 CERPs (IBCLC) and 11.1 Contact Hours (BRN), MiLK is for the lay parent and the health care professional.

I would love to see you there.

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We have a MiLK giveaway!
3 prizes:

Grand prize: 2 tickets for one winner with the VIP option and a set of general admission to the local breastfeeding support group of their choice, 1 Arm’s Reach Mini-CoSleeper in Santa Fe, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump, 1 Eat@Moms shirt, 1 box Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea, 1 Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter, 1 pair Earth Mama Angel Baby Booby Tubes.
Prize pack 1: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai wrap, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 manual pump, 1 Ameda nursing tank, 1 Eat@moms shirt.

Prize pack 2: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai ring sling, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Eat@Moms shirt.

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Open to USA residents only.

Please use the widget below to enter.

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Exploring Solids With Baby and Giveaway Codes!

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Dear Leakies,

 

I love this issue! Secret newsletter exclusive giveaway codes, tips on feeding, recipes, and a special word from our friends at Paxbaby. Go all the way down to the end to see it all!

Feeding our babies is a big deal from the very beginning and oddly enough, causes a lot of controversy (did you see that FB rejected our money for an ad claiming “nudity” and “adult content?” We just see babies being fed.
Every milestone is an exciting experience with and for our little ones and introducing solids is one of the biggest. What to introduce and when to introduce it are important considerations many of parents agonize over. In many ways the introduction of solids is an emotional time, bittersweet and significant as it signifies our babies growing up and the first step away from the feeding of their infancy. It can be easy to rush it or even hold back delaying the inevitable, but whenever and however it happens, it can be such a fun stage and it’s time to join us at Our Stable Table where we talk about nourishing our families beyond the breast or bottle and including everything from recipes to conversations that happen around the table.

 

Making the decisions for starting your baby on solids can be overwhelming. Between conflicting information, personal opinions, and outdated recommendations, navigating those decisions becomes particularly difficult when you factor in concerns about allergies, readiness, and your mother-in-law’s insisting that starting rice cereal at 4 weeks was the best thing ever.

 

Whatever you choose to do, The Leaky Boob wants to offer you information and support, respecting your responsibility in making informed decisions for your family. While some will feel it is important to wait until 6 months or more to introduce any solids, some will feel that their child is showing signs of readiness between 4-6 months and with the support of their child’s doctor will start giving their baby first foods.
And if you do have a child with allergies, it is an entirely different ballgame and getting friends and family to respect those boundaries is no small challenge. We talk about that here.
Some resources to help you get started or just for curiosity’s sake: American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on introducing solids, recent research on introducing solids and allergies, exploring baby-led solids, information on puree solids, and making your own baby food.

 

Whatever you do with introducing solids, and I’ve done just about all the options with my children, I hope you enjoy the process.

Ready to read more?! GO HERE to hunt for the codes and get the best information on transitioning your little one to solids! 

 

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Babywearing, Connection, Partner Support: The Leaky Times Newsletter Vol. 9

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This TLB Newsletter generously sponsored by  LOGO.cdr

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Dear Leakies,

This summer as you get outside to explore, keeping your baby close and on you can be a big help with feeding your baby. With so many different types of carriers available, there’s almost certainly an option that will work for you. Between the different brands of carriers (and some brands having more than one style, such as Tula), online support and information (such as babywearing and breastfeedingthis online chat with Paxbaby and The Leaky Boob) and retailers (where you can find many different brands in one place!), babywearing libraries, babywearing educators, and ways to purchase used; more and more families have access to figuring out what babywearing can be for them.

And that’s good news. The skin to skin contact of babywearing sends signals to your body that helps you produce milk even as you’re busy keeping up with older kids and vacation plans. There are so many benefits of babywearing, even including neurological and physical development, see more on that here. Even better, for moms feeding directly at the breast, learning how to breastfeed in a carrier can be a total game changer, making it possible to feed on the go. We think this is so Ula babywearingimportant, we have a whole workshop at the Milk Conference to teach moms and support providers more about breastfeeding in the carrier. While not everybody will be comfortable breastfeeding in the carrier, having the option to do so can help remove just one more breastfeeding obstacle. Carry all the babies, feed all the babies! (On your front, just to be clear, unless you have a sense of humor and flexible breasts like this.)

With our friends at Tula, we want to help. You can read a helpful article they’ve recently posted about the HOW and WHY of breastfeeding and babywearing!

Dad babywearingEven if breastfeeding in the carrier isn’t for you or if you’re not breastfeeding directly at the breast, babywearing can be a fun and special way to care for your little one… and your toddler! (I share all about why you might want to wear your toddler and preschooler here.) Babywearing is an excellent way for non-breastfeeding partner parents to connect as well, (older siblings too, see this article for more on sibling-wearing) fostering connections and closeness in shared experience and constant snuggles. For tips on what to consider in looking for a carrier that works for you and/or your partner, check out this link to get you started.

The conversation and education about babywearing has increased, and with good reason. There are a lot of benefits of babywearing but it is important it’s done safely. This is why we are talking about it, anyone could make a mistake (including this celebrity) and babywearing safety is important. Together we can support each other in caring for our little ones.

Want to read more? Check out the rest of our latest news on breastfeeding, partner and babywearing resources, and EXCLUSIVE giveaways in our latest newsletter

 RIGHT HERE !!

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Epic MiLK! The Leaky Times Newsletter Vol.8

by Kileah McIlvain

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Dear Leakies,

This may come as a shock, but I’m not passionate about breastfeeding.

Which is why I hope you all can join me at Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference on August 1st in Los Angelas, CA. This conference is all about bringing together everyone involved in infant feeding conversations to learn how to listen, share information, and offer true support. Support that isn’t possible when we’re judging and shaming individuals.

Nearly every day we hear from moms they concern about how they are feeding their baby. Guilt weaves through their words. With heartbreak they share their story, aching at what they perceive to be failure and hoping we can offer some magic fix. We tell them all the same thing.

Feed the baby. That’s the first rule of infant feeding care, FEED THE BABY. Because no matter what methodology, the baby must be fed. Not feeding the baby IS failure.

If there were a first rule of infant feeding support, it should be “DON’T BE A JERK.” Followed closely by “SUPPORT THE PERSON OVER THE METHODOLOGY.” Being a jerk and supporting a methodology over people IS failure.

Feeding the baby isn’t failure.

Sometimes, the people that should be the most supportive, end up offering unsupportive support.

READ MORE HERE!

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The Tapestry of Guilt- The Truth About Guilt and Parenting

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Trigger warning- sexual abuse mentioned.

Blooming amongst the hard places

This post is talking about guilt, settle in, it’s a long one because… guilt.

If I had a dollar for every time I hear a mother share her infant feeding story under a thick layer of guilt, I would be a wealthy woman. If I had a dime for every time I hear a mother share her pregnancy story, her birth story, her postpartum/newborn story, her parenting decisions and realities under that stifling wet blanket of guilt that turns so many beautiful stories into a dark, twisted confusing drama, I would be an incredibly wealthy woman. Lots and lots of companies are getting wealthy capitalizing on mothering guilt, it’s big business. Be it for the length of time they breastfed, how involved their partner could be with them breastfeeding, their child’s health issues, how many bottles their child received, if they used formula, how well pumping went for them, or how she feels about breastfeeding, often guilt is a regular theme in these stories. Permeating the pregnancy journey, birth experience, first days, recovery, relationships, the learning curve, sleep experiences, solids, purchases, you name it, guilt underlies even many of the joys. Guilt, regret, and grief. Bittersweetness. Through their tears or defensive tone, guilt and sometime shame underlie their words, a framework on which to hang their tapestry of fear that in reality they are inadequate.

And it hurts.

This guilt upon which their story is spread causes many of them deep yet inescapable pain. For some that pain has made them feel vulnerable to the attacks of others or even what they simply perceive as attacks from others when they share. For some that pain has made them harden, putting up their defenses and adding caveats to the stories of others. For some that pain threatens their very confidence, adding a sinister voice to the question so many find nagging within: am I enough?

I know guilt well. Far too well.

This emotion is triggered when we’ve done something wrong or wonder if we have done something wrong. It can be a very good thing, alerting us when we’ve gone off course or ignored our moral compass, inspiring education to learn how to do better. I’ve been grateful for guilt at times, it has helped me be a better person, a better friend, better worker, better partner, and a better mother. With an important purpose, guilt can help us keep our actions in line with our values. Brene Brown explains that guilt is about what we’ve done whereas shame is about who we believe we are. That’s where things get blurry. Sometimes guilt grows into shame and we question not only our actions but our very worth as a person as a result of those actions. Usually starting with “what kind of person/mother/partner/friend/daughter would DO that?”

Sometimes guilt is legitimate, we’ve done or not done something that doesn’t aline with our values. Sometimes we bring guilt on ourselves unjustly. Either because of the importance we’ve placed on something (i.e. I must have this kind of birth because it is the best and science says my child will have a better life if they are born this way) or because we punish ourselves for what we didn’t know. Sometimes guilt is a result of privilege, easily missed as being artificially manufactured from a culture of expected norms based in privilege. Sometimes guilt is triggered by someone else wanting us to feel guilty in an attempt to control us or make themselves feel superior. Some of us have mothers that are particularly skilled in this manipulation. True, nobody can make you feel anything without your permission but we are social beings who need community and our feelings are a part of that dynamic and they matter. Why else would we even want to be with other people and take that risk?

Guilt has woven in an out of my own mothering stories, still does. I have felt guilt over a great many choices, accidents, ignorances, and situations entirely out of my control in caring for my children; from how I ate during my pregnancies, how their births went, what I have fed them at meal times, car seat mistakes, educational choices, health care decisions, discipline choices, the mess of my house, you name it. In 16.5 years of parenting, my mothering guilt has built up quite a rap sheet. But it all pales in comparison to my greatest grief as a mother. In the shadow of this one thing, I see these other areas for what they really are: mistakes or insignificant variations from my plan that are nothing more than blips on the radar.

I may have wept when breastfeeding my 2nd daughter ended at 4.5 months, 8 months shy of my goal. Guilt accompanied me for a time that I wasn’t strong enough to push through excruciating pain, couldn’t manage her screams from reflux, and wasn’t able to find the bonding promised in breastfeeding and instead found each feeding session a blow to my already fragile mental health in the midst of fighting postpartum depression. It felt real and devastating at the time and I won’t minimize anyone’s struggle through such an experience, it isn’t easy. A few years later though, for me that seemed as small as guilt in having to throw away a ruined meal due to forgetting to set the timer.

No, the guilt I hold and have gone to therapy for years over stems from when I failed to identify someone who would hurt my children and failed to notice they were experiencing ongoing sexual abuse at the hands of someone I loved and trusted. That two of my children were used, their bodies abused and their spirits crushed because of a person, a 13 year old boy I brought into their lives and I couldn’t tell it was happening… that is a guilt and grief I have lacked the words to explain for 10 years. How could any good mother miss that? How could I have missed the warning signs that the perpetrator was a risk? How could I not have known? How could I have failed them and allowed them to experience so much pain?

Maybe I didn’t deserve to be a mother. Maybe my children weren’t safe in my care. Maybe… maybe I wasn’t enough.

I haven’t been alone with this guilt, my husband, their daddy, has battled it too. It has brought out in both of us at times protectiveness, aggressive fury, self loathing, depression, and fear. Oh so much fear. And shame. For a long time that’s really all there was, guilt, fear, and shame.

That was a terrible place to parent from. No confidence, nothing healthy. Nothing to help our children heal and recover. We were trying but it wasn’t working.

The abuse wasn’t really our fault but it kind of was too. Our therapist and friends would try to encourage us by reminding us that the one responsible was the one who did it. That’s true, he is responsible but then, we’re the ones responsible for our children. It could happen to anyone, they would say, and that’s true too, but it happened to our children and we were supposed to stop it. We did as soon as we found out and we fought hard for them, demanding justice, accountability, and help for their abuser. But it still happened. As our eldest fractured before our eyes, splintering into little shards of herself losing her kindergarten year to nightmares, outbursts, and locking herself in the bathroom to cry wracking sobs or worse, sit curled up in the corner without a sound as she picked at her skin, we could only blame the one that did this to a point. When you point one finger out, there are 3 pointing back at you.

Guilt sucks. Shame is an asshole. Fear is crippling.

Our daughters were hurting and they needed us. As much as I didn’t feel like I was the right mother for them, as much as my confidence was shattered, as much as I had already failed them, I was the mother they had. After CPS had investigated and cleared us, our children were stuck with us, failures and all, we were the only parents they had. It became time for guilt to do something positive, it was time for course correcting, time to educate ourselves and learn how to do better, time to grow. We had little confidence in our abilities as parents, just enough to believe that maybe our love for our daughters would be enough and we could learn and grow.

We did. The approach to parenting we had taken was ditched and we started over from scratch after careful analyses of what we had believed and practiced as parents. Not only did we want to change our parenting because we felt our approach had failed our daughters and enabled abuse, we also were creating mindful changes to support their healing. With a critical eye we dismantled it all. Reading sources on child development and parenting that took a different approach than what we had tried before and intensely scrutinizing our parenting that may have contributed to the abuse or made our children more vulnerable, we gradually developed a parenting philosophy we could put into practice that was drastically different. Proactive in getting our daughters help and altering how we parented led to healing and over time, confidence building for all of us.

Guilt, whether it was rightfully placed or not, helped us get to that place. Guilt that broke us.

We could have stayed in that place of guilt, eventually embracing and internalizing shame as parents but that would have been an even greater failure of our daughters. Moving on wasn’t the answer, getting over it, letting it go, wasn’t what helped us, it was moving into and through it that made the real difference. With the help of therapy and the sharing of a few other bold individuals, our family found our way to healing that led to thriving, strength, and confidence.

Guilt hasn’t disappeared from my life, I still make mistakes, still am disappointed with myself from time to time, still hurt when I can’t manage to be the “best” parent I have idolized in my head. From worry and guilt about what I did before I learned differently (car seat safety, sleeping arrangements, etc.) to guilt that we sometimes find ourselves short of the resources to help our children reach their goals (such as our eldest’s dance training- still so far from the funds she needs). It’s still there, still pushing me to learn and grow and sometimes to change and figure out how to do better. But it doesn’t get to stay around for long, my children need me too much to sleep with guilt. Now, as our eldest is 16, she’s taking her sexual abuse experience and turning it into something powerful. From my guilt has come this overwhelming pride confusingly mixed with humility. (Read her story here and listen to her share in her own voice here.) And I’m done wasting time feeling guilty about things like formula feeding my 2nd (never had much guilt there actually, it was necessary and right for us), over guilt for things I didn’t know, past guilt issues out of my control, and moved on from guilt that I am human and make mistakes. Now when guilt pops up, I sit and examine it, question the source, and assess if it is genuine or artificially manufactured. Then I determine what I need to learn from it and dismiss it from my life so I can get on with the growing and learning. There are those that want me to wallow in it and try to throw it in my face from time to time, those that attempt to feel better about themselves by attempting to provoke guilt in me, and even those that try to turn it into shame so I question my very worth. They are powerless over me now because I’m no longer afraid of guilt, I can use it to grow. In the big picture, so much of the guilt we hold onto is for mistakes, wrong-doing, ignorance, or bad choices that are not lasting issues. I’ve survived true guilt for something so terrible, I already know the truth.

Even with my mistakes, even with my failures, I am enough.

And I don’t judge other parents or wish guilt or shame on them. Because now, I know it can happen to anyone. Even accidentally leaving a child in the car on a hot day.

I am a rich woman today, not in material possessions or my bank account. The wealth I treasure today is the intricate tapestry of experience in my family. Guilt has a place but it doesn’t own me or define me and it is my hope that every parent that truly loves their child and is willing to grow and learn as they parent will take the inevitable guilt they will encounter as they care for their children and turn it into something beautiful and enriching. Because when we know we are enough, our children can believe it for themselves too.

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My eldest, 16 year old Ophélia talks openly about her experience healing from sexual abuse, you can learn more about how she is now working to help others even as she continues to grow and heal by going here. To support her in that journey, see her fundraising video (she’s still a long way from her goal) here.

_________________

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Six Ways To Support Someone With Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety

by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustration by Jennie Bernstein

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I can’t tell you the number of times each day we receive messages or have posts in the community group or on The Leaky Boob Facebook page wall from women just beginning to wade into the waters of acknowledging their struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. The numbers, if we tracked them, would be staggering.

But they aren’t surprising.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is estimated that 9-16 percent of women who have had a baby will experience postpartum depression. Of those, 41% will go on to have it again after subsequent babies.

Which means chances are strong you or someone you know is struggling with postpartum depression or has dealt with it in the past.

The American Psychological Association describes the symptoms of PPD thus:

For mothers, PPD can:

  • affect ability to function in everyday life and increase risk for anxiety, cognitive impairment, guilt, self blame, and fear;
  • lead to difficulty in providing developmentally appropriate care to infants;
  • lead to a loss of pleasure or interest in life, sleep disturbance, feelings of irritability or anxiety, withdrawal from family and friends, crying, and thoughts of hurting oneself or one’s child;
  • be particularly problematic because of the social role adjustments expected of new mothers, which include immediate and constant infant care, redefining spousal and familial relationships, and work role.

The day I knew something was wrong with me was when my second baby was 5 weeks old and I was standing at my kitchen counter, staring blankly into the chocolate milk I was stirring, wishing I could get caught in the whirlpool swirling in my glass. I realized that I was fantasizing about committing suicide in my chocolate milk. That’s nor normal and that’s probably not good, I thought, then I took a drink of the chocolate milk I had just imagined drowning in and numbly turned back to my two children. They needed me, I was the one that was so weak of a person in character that I couldn’t handle it and wanted to die. My thoughts were that I needed to buck up, develop stronger character, and just be a good mom who loved being a good mom.

But I couldn’t try my way out of it. I was certain I was inadequate in every way possible.

The day my husband knew I needed help (he knew something was wrong before then) was when he came home to find me hiding in our closet while the toddler was crying downstairs and the baby was screaming in her bassinet. I had put myself there because I was afraid I was going to hurt my children. Standing above my baby’s bassinet where she was once again screaming, I hadn’t felt sympathy or concern for her, all I had felt was overwhelmed, failure, and the desire to throw her against the wall. Feelings that were so foreign to me and so strong that I became afraid for my children, afraid of what I could be capable of. I hadn’t even known I was capable of feeling that way in the first place. My husband called my midwife and appointment was set that would lead to other appointments and some medications.

Coming through that time was like being caught in a whirlpool, fighting a rushing current that threatened to suck me down. Sometimes I didn’t have the fight for it. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I didn’t but found the fight inspired by my children, my husband, and my friends. In the beginning, that was often the only way I found the fight.

Telling the people around us was a game changer. We were in a transitional time of our life, having just started being a part of a new community a few months before. Our previous community had splintered, we had just moved, and we felt disconnected from friends and never had been very close with our families and I just lost one of the closest family members I had to dementia then death the very day my daughter was born. My family, so far away, was already dealing with a hurt and loss so big I didn’t want to be responsible for adding to it. Hundreds, even thousands of miles and relational fractures separated us from the people in our life that previously had been our people. We were just starting to find that again and I was terrified that this depression, this overwhelming, all consuming inner oppression would drive them away and destroy my family’s chance at having a place to belong and people who cared.

Then something amazing happened. Those people cared anyway.

A small group of friends who we played in a band with and did shared faith with dared to care. Without us even telling them at first, they began to push into our lives a bit, even when I pushed them away. Eventually, we opened up and shared our struggle.

It was then they all grabbed an oar and began paddling my lifeboat against the current of that whirlpool even when I couldn’t. They helped save me. They also helped me find my own paddle not only for myself but to jump in and help when I have friends in the same boat.

As a society we don’t talk enough about mental health and postpartum depression gets little more than a checklist run through with our care providers. So much shame, stigma, and fear comes with admitting struggles with mental health even when we know that it isn’t an issue of good vs bad character. For those of us in the midst depression it can be difficult to express what we need, we may not even know ourselves. For those of us loving someone in the midst of depression it can be difficult to know what our loved ones need, how to be there, or how to help. For those of us with friends and acquaintances we suspect may be floundering, it can be difficult to know. I’m still learning but here is what my friends have taught me in truly supporting someone dealing with mental illness:

  1. Acceptance. Don’t argue that they don’t feel the way they feel, don’t point out they seem to be ok. Accepting what I admitted was what I was experiencing helped me accept it as well. That is the first step for getting better.
  2. Listen. Even if they don’t have anything to say. Even if they do and it takes them a while to figure out how to get it out.
  3. Wait. You may think you know exactly what they need but jumping in with all your suggestions to fix it can be crippling for the one who is not well. Wait with them, along side them but don’t tell them every idea you have for how they can better. Please be quiet about your oils, the diet suggestions, your faith belief promises, your books, your conviction that if they just count their blessings everything will be better, your recommendations for fresh air, and to get moving. Just wait with them. Be with them.
  4. Be there. One of the many sucky parts of depression and anxiety is that it often tells the sufferer they aren’t worthy, aren’t good enough for love. Messages of inadequacy may flood their spirit and in attempting to avoid that pain, they may attempt to avoid the people that want to be there through it and beyond. Be there anyway. Gently, patiently, persistently. Respect your boundaries while you be there and don’t tolerate abuse, but if you can continue being there even when you are pushed away, you may very well help them anchor themselves enough to fight against the current of depression and anxiety that tells them they aren’t good enough.
  5. Share. Knowing others have gone and are going through similar struggles can help. Comfort that maybe they aren’t alone, that others may understand, and that they are not a freak can help those suffering with mental health issues find their own inner power. And to know that others have gone through and emerged able to talk about it and having found a path that worked for them is a message of hope.
  6. Help. Oh this one is hard. How do you help without being pushy? How do you help without trying to fix them? My husband explains it this way: fight along side them, not in front of them (they don’t need a knight in shinning armor), not against them (distracts from the real battle), not behind them (makes them feel they need to watch their back), along side them. My friends helped me most by coming over and playing with my children, holding my baby even when she was screaming (she had reflux, she was often screaming), by sharing their personal experiences with depression and anxiety, by asking me and really wanting to know how I was doing, and by celebrating my good moments when I wanted to celebrate them.

Have a friend or partner you are concerned about? You can help her and by helping her you are helping her children as well. The road to healing isn’t always easy but it’s better when we’re not alone.

Not sure if you or someone you love is experiencing normal baby blues or postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? This list may help put things in perspective.

 

 

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Facebook Removes Breastfeeding Photos and Disables Mom’s Account Ignoring Their Own Policies- Again.

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Breastfeeding and Facebook

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley Abby shared this photo on Facebook previously with no issue.

Between 3 and 4pm on Saturday, May 9th, 2015, the day before celebrating her very first Mother’s Day as a mom, Bump 2 Baby Birth Photography owner, Abby Camarata, discovered that her access to the virtual global town hall that is Facebook was unavailable. More specifically, that her account had been disabled. The new mom of 4 week old Rocco was cut off from much of her community and from her business and she had no idea why. When she attempted to log in she received a message from Facebook that her account was disabled and if she had questions she could visit Facebook’s help center. That was it.

It hasn’t been long since Facebook received praise for finally amending their guidelines for image posting to include supporting breastfeeding photos. Just this past March news outlets, bloggers, and advocates celebrated when the guidelines were further clarified after several years of back and forth drama between Facebook, users, and the media when breastfeeding photos would be removed. There was a collective sigh that maybe this dysfunctional censoring of motherhood and the women that share it was finally over with the social media giant.

Apparently not. And this isn’t the first time they’ve violated their own policies about breastfeeding photos.

Abby and I chatted initially when her account was still disabled. Her personal profile was reinstated by 9.05 pm that evening but her business page is still gone. She still doesn’t know why. What she suspects? Somebody complained about the breastfeeding photos on both her personal profile and on her business page. This first time mom shared her thoughts on why this matters not only for her personally but for many parents in today’s society.

TLB: Abby, I’m so sorry your personal profile was disabled by Facebook. I know you’ve used your Facebook to connect with friends and family as well as for your business. Up until your account was disabled, how has FB been important to you both in the past and now more recently? How will not having it impact you?

Abby: Facebook has always been an outlet for keeping in touch with friends and family but more recently, it’s been nothing short of a lifeline. Especially since the birth of my first baby, Rocco, four weeks ago. Life can easily become isolating at this stage, Facebook as been a consistent connecting point for me through this transition. From the moment we announced our little love coming earthside, a meal train was set up in my tribe and quickly a whole month worth of dinners were signed up for. I joined a Homebirth Cesarean Facebook group that has been a shoulder for me to cry on and a safe place for me to vent. The Leaky Boob Community group has been a lifesaver. I love how this is a group of nursing moms so when I woke up at 3am and my boob felt like it got ran over by a truck, I had several responses of support and encouragement with suggested remedies within minutes!

Not having Facebook kept me from my tribe and my resources. Both of which are part of my every day-to-day life. It may not have been for long, this time, but I don’t know if it will happen again and the connections and relationships I have there mean a lot to me, particularly during this difficult postpartum stage. My business is impacted as well. I cant correspond with clients, share new work, or follow up on leads and referrals.

 

Facebook account disabled after posting breastfeeding photos.

The message Abby received when she attempted to login.

 

TLB: How did you discover your account was disabled? Has Facebook given you a reason for disabling your account or indicated that it is a determined length of time for this ban? When did they contact you?

Abby: I discovered the disabling of my account only after several friends messaged me about my account being inactive. My account was still active after the initial flagged photo for nudity so I’m not sure why it was actually deactivated later. I was never given a length of time for the ban. I was never contacted about ANY of the ordeal. When my account was reactivated, it stated that my image was reported for nudity, and that the photos were removed for “violating Facebook’s Community Standards” even though the images remain on my page, and the link to the community standards was broken and I was unable to read them.

TLB: Birth and breastfeeding are big aspects of your work as a photographer, now as a mother yourself, what do you see is the significance of capturing and sharing these moments through photography? How has it been significant for you personally?

Abby: Given the rough journey I’ve experienced so far with breastfeeding, and the utter bliss and healing it brings me, I have a renewed appreciation and love for breastfeeding photography. We are given such a short time to have this special bonding time with our children. Some moms are blessed with more time than others.

Personally, not knowing how long my body will keep producing milk with my hormone issues, I savor every second I can nurse my son. I hope others are encouraged by the images I share as I’ve been encouraged by the breastfeeding images others have shared. I’ve learned a lot too.

Breastfeeding selfie Abby shared on Facebook on May 9, 2015.

Breastfeeding selfie Abby shared on Facebook on May 9, 2015.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

The notice Abby received that her photo was reported by someone on her friend list.

 

Breastfeeding photo removed by Facebook May 2015.

The notice Abby received that her photo was determined to violate FB standards.

 

 

TLB: You had a breastfeeding photo reported just before your account was disabled, why had you shared that photo in particular? Have you had breastfeeding photos reported in the past? Was the photo removed by FB or was the last that you knew, they reviewing the report?

Abby: I take photos almost every time I nurse my son. The awe and love for breastfeeding hasn’t worn off. Again, with my breastfeeding issues, and not knowing how long I will be able to nurse him, EVERY DAY is a victory. Every latch is a reason to celebrate. Every suckle is a savored moment. A moment I want to hold onto. To remember. To document. To share! This new thing, breastfeeding, is totally rad and I want to share my journey and the love I have for it. I want to normalize it!

The very first photo I shared of Rocco, announcing his arrival, was a photo of him breastfeeding. The two week herbal bath family photos that were taken, I shared a breastfeeding photo. I shared a photo of Rocco latched as we enjoyed the shade at the park. I shared the breastfeeding photos from our three week family photo shoot. All were celebrated by friends and family and not one of them were reported to my knowledge.

Shortly after I posted my photo, it was reported. I was taken aback because out of all the nursing photos I have shared, this was the most modest! Rocco was covering his mouth with his hands. I posted a screenshot of my reported image, and then got off Facebook to tend to my son. Before I know it, I received texts from three different friends asking if I had disabled my account. I was blocked out of Facebook. My account was disabled, without warning. I waited and waited for an explanation from Facebook via email and I received nothing.

TLB: Are you familiar with Facebook’s policy on breastfeeding photos and do you believe your photos were in keeping with those policies? 

Abby: I have never read the actual policies, but the last update I read from a friend, is that as long as the baby was actively nursing, any breast or nipple showing was not in violation of any policies.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley Abby had previously shared this photo on Facebook with no incident.

Alternative breastmilk feeding

Photo Credit: Stephanie Shirley. Abby feeding Rocco. Abby previously shared this photo on Facebook with no incident.

 

TLB: You shared that your breastfeeding journey has been difficult and very important to you, how does it feel in light of that to not only having someone on your friend list report your image but then to have FB actually disable your account?

Abby: It was SO disheartening, on so many levels. It’s overwhelming. What was frustrating right off is that I was provided no explanation from Facebook. It hurts that a “friend” reported my image because the image for me is the same as someone else posting a selfie at a finish line of a race. It’s a triumph. Something I’m working hard for. Something I’m proud of. It’s frustrating not only that a breastfeeding photo was reported, but it was THAT photo, which showed absolutely no nipple. I thought it was modest.

TLB: What did you do when you discovered the report of your breastfeeding photo?

Abby: I shared a screenshot of the flagged version of the photo in hopes to get feedback. Was this image offensive? HOW was this image offensive? I asked the “offended” to message me with an explanation. (I was genuinely curious.) I also asked them to remove themselves from my friends list. And that wasn’t to be malicious, it was because I don’t plan on stopping the share of nursing photos. Breastfeeding, by anyone, should be celebrated.

TLB: Your account is reinstated, will you be doing anything differently in terms of your behavior on FB?

Abby: I did have an impulse to keep my account deactivated and just start a new one with a few close friends and family. I was just so hurt that someone would be so offended by something that’s so innocent and special to me. But, refuse to stop sharing my nursing photos. If it’s a special moment, and I feel beautiful in it, you bet I’m going to share it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding my son exactly as nature intended it. I need to contribute to this societal stigma around breastfeeding. It needs to change.

TLB: If you knew who it was that reported your photo, what would you say to them?

Abby: It depends on who it was and why they reported it. I have more than 100 things I would like to say to them. I really wish they would message me and open a discussion about their concerns than rather “report and run away.” It seems very childish to me. They don’t have to follow my profile nor even be friends with me on Facebook.

TLB: Lastly, is there anything you would like people to know coming through this experience?

Abby: I could tell you to stop sharing nursing photos. I could tell you to choose your Facebook “friends” wisely. To change the privacy settings on your nursing photos. But that wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not going to break down the breastfeeding stigma rampant in our American society. Keep sharing your beautiful images. Together, we can make waves. We can normalize breastfeeding for our future generations. For our children. Nurse on mamas.

Breastfeeding and Facebook

Abby and Rocco

At The Leaky Boob we believe everybody’s story matters and we should have the freedom to share it without censoring from outside sources, particularly in places where we find our community. Sharing our stories not only connects us but strengthens us all. #MyStoryMatters #YourStoryMatters and we hope you continue to share it wherever you are comfortable doing so. Share your story and offer #TLBsupportForward.

Want to share your story? Let us know in the comments.

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The Mothering Oxygen Mask- 4 Steps To Breathing Normally Again

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

Photo Credit: Meghann Buswell, Your Street Photography, Portland, OR.

See those 4 darling little girls enjoying a magical tea party outside? They are precious and 4 out of 6 of the most amazing people that I get to have call me mom. I’m lucky enough to breathe them in deeply daily. I’m crazy about them. Crazy. Sometimes I’m crazy from them too. Sometimes I end up breathing rather labored because of them.

Sometimes I need to breathe in deeply away from them.

This is a little risky to admit. The internet loves to judge mother who admit they find, well, being a mother can be… difficult. Even more so loves to hate those that admit they don’t always like being around their own children all the time. But I’ll take the risk.

On commercial passenger airplanes, safety instructions are given each flight before take off on what to do in the case of an emergency. Flight attendants (or a video) explain that in the case of pressure changes, oxygen masks should drop down and passengers should place them over their mouth and nose and breathe normally. For those flying with small children or someone that would need assistance, instructions are given to secure your own mask before helping someone else with theirs. The reason for this instruction isn’t given but should you help someone else before securing your own mask, it is very possible that you could end up deprived of the oxygen your brain needs and pass out before your own mask is in place. Should that happen, you wouldn’t be able to help take care of anyone and worse, would be at even more risk.

Are you breathing normally?

Do you know where your oxygen mask is?

When was the last time you did something for you, truly for you? For many parents, particularly mothers, doing something for ourselves can be very difficult. It feels selfish, wasteful, extravagant, unnecessary, and laden with guilt. If we can pass it off as being for the whole family, such as a family vacation, then it is ok, but when taking care of ourselves really is just for ourself it can get much, much more difficult.

Parenting requires sacrifice, it’s true. We give up a lot for our children, getting in exchange such beauty and joy. But are we really able to care for our children if we can’t breathe normally ourselves? If we lose our selves? For a long time I believed that being a good mother required not only sacrifice but a sort of martyrdom, losing one’s self to build up one’s children. That was what I saw modeled for me in my own mother and what I thought I would need to do as well. Some women are able to do this and find it quite fulfilling, maybe even more in touch with who they really are. I was not one of those women. Losing myself, sacrificing so much I didn’t even know who I was any more, being constantly burnt out, led me into a deep and dark depression and instead of being a good mother, I was too lost to care for my children.

I needed an oxygen mask.

I needed to be able to breathe.

As admirable as it is that my mother gave up so much for her children, the truth is to this day I don’t really know her. What I know is the woman who loves me and did her best to care for me as a child even when she was constantly depleted of much needed air herself. As depleted as she was, she gave so much but often it wasn’t what my siblings and I really needed as much as it was what she thought we needed. She was too spent to assess what care was actually required. Our family suffered. Realizing I was headed down the same path, I knew something needed to change. I needed to nurture the nurturer.

My 4 steps to finding my oxygen mask

1) Change wasn’t easy. It would require asking for help. Asking for help would require admitting I needed help. Admitting I needed help would require letting others know that I couldn’t handle it all on my own. I saw that as failure. Failure to live up to a standard of motherhood of a perfectly decorated and cleaned house, perfectly cooked healthy meals, perfectly executed crafts, perfectly planned parties and play dates, perfectly perfect children, perfectly perfect family, perfectly perfect life, perfectly perfect me. This was hard, in fact, it ended up being the most important sacrifice I would ever make in my motherhood journey: sacrificing my pride in presenting a perfect facade by admitting I needed help.

2) Equally challenging admitting that the help I needed was so I could have a break. Time away from my children. Space to do something just for me. A break. In my head it sounded like I didn’t like my kids and the truth was, from my burnt out place, I didn’t. But it was way more than that, it was finally recognizing in myself that there really isn’t anybody I can be around 24/7 and not get tired of them and, for me, that though I seem like an extrovert, I actually get energy from being alone with my thoughts and having time to be creative by myself. What I would come to discover is that I actually really, really like my children but I needed some space from them from time to time to be able to truly appreciate that connection more.

3) At first I didn’t know how to make that space for me, I wasn’t even sure where to find my oxygen mask. With no family close, who could watch my children? My husband was more than willing to equally parent, it wasn’t him that was a barrier, it was me. I felt as though I was slacking, being a lazy mother to let him. Or that he wouldn’t do it as well as me. It wasn’t until I realized that he could parent differently and still not only be capable, given how burnt out I was, he was probably better. Now I love that we have different approaches and styles with our children, agreeing on certain non-negotiables and being flexible on grey areas. Beyond my own partner though, how could I find the space? We couldn’t afford sitters at the time, we didn’t have family near us, and we struggled to trust others. Eventually it was in intentionally finding and cultivating community, finding space for myself in friendships and gradually building trust. Today our family has several dear family friends that are like family, stay with our children for short and long periods of time, join us for meals and events, and swap helping each other find space as parents needing oxygen masks. This parenting thing isn’t meant to happen on an isolated island, being alone isn’t healthy, it isn’t what we would want for our children, we need to be aware of what we’re modeling for them in our own lives. Be it family or friends, we need to put effort into finding our tribe, not just online, but in real life.

4) Eventually I realized that my oxygen mask had some variety. There were big ones and small ones. Some were actually easily accessible right in front of my but I could only see them once I had a shot of fresh air. Making my own self-care a priority gave me the energy to grow as a person and a mother. The little daily hits on my oxygen mask rejuvenate me, giving me the clarity I need to care for my children in a sustainable way. Many of these 22 ways are a regular part of my self-care now.

Now, with my children, I teach them the importance of self care as well because there are times when everyone needs their own oxygen mask.

There is no one-size-fits all and what you may need during one season of parenting may change in the next season. Find what works for you and consider how you can be in community with others and help them find their’s as well. There is no firm how to use it or what it looks like for you, what’s important is just that you use it.

Your children will thank you one day and will know you not only as their loving, sacrificing mother, but as the thriving individual of value that you are.

__________________

Are you burnt out? Even as you love your children and enjoy parenting them, are you ever in need of a break? What steps have you found to making that possible?

__________________

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Why Would You Wear Your Toddler or Preschooler When They Can Walk?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Beco Baby Carriers.
Why wear your toddler when they can walk?

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell. Love this carrier? There are only two like it the whole world and you can win the other one by going here!

Once upon a time I found the whole idea of wearing a child who could walk completely… ridiculous. Seriously, how is that helping them? They can walk, you’re just trying to keep them little longer and probably inhibiting their development. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, CARRY THEM ALL AROUND THEIR COLLEGE CAMPUS?

*If you just want the quick points on why maybe you should wear your toddler, skip to the end.*

I figured if you kept carrying your child after they learned how to walk, you’d end up looking like this.

Beco Carrier teenager

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Then I had a kid. Our first turned out to be a late walker and didn’t really become mobile until between 15 and 16 months old. By that point the other toddlers in our circles were running circles around her and I began to panic, in spite of our pediatrician’s reassurance, that she was never, ever going to walk. Worried that her my dreams of an Olympic gold medalist were fast slipping out of reach, I become a little pushy to get her to walk. And also because carrying her was killing my back and arms, back then we didn’t have any carriers with a high enough weight limit and I just plain didn’t want carry her. Well meaning people around me warned that she was just using me, being lazy, and would never become independent if we “let” her make us carry her all the time. We were “spoiling her” and we’d have to carry her FOREVER. So I pushed. Walk, you’ve got two legs, use them! Besides, you have to become self sufficient and independent some day. Sheesh.

You guys, she was really still just a baby.

But even after she started walking she wanted to be held a lot. In fact, she was timid and scared and insecure. To “help” her through that, I pushed her to be more independent. I’m not proud of this, in fact, it makes me sad. Looking back, me pushing her to walk when she wanted to be close to me was really a jerk thing to do. I would refuse to carry her or carry her for just a moment and then put her down even if she wasn’t ready. My fears were completely unfounded, today she walks and runs and dances ballet just fine. Not only that, after some therapy and healing, she is a self sufficient independent introverted 16 year old who has taught me that connection is more important and respecting individual personal ways of interacting with the world is what makes you not be a jerk of a parent. She didn’t need me pushing her to walk, she needed me available for lots and lots of connection until she was ready. To this day she prefers to observe the world from a bit of a distance before racing into it. But when she does race in, watch out, she has found her confidence and her voice to make a difference.

Since our eldest taught us about respecting our children as individual people, we’ve had 5 more children but it wasn’t until our 3rd that we began to wear our toddlers on purpose. Another introvert, our third daughter felt safest close to a parent and would for several years. Meaning when she was three and four, she still wanted up in certain settings. Instead of traumatizing her with environments she wasn’t ready to navigate independently, we listened to her. When she was ready, she would progress into the world around her on her terms and now confidently moves through the world secure in her steps and returning to us to share her adventures and discoveries. Now, with our almost 3 year old Sugarbaby, we let her set the pace for how she interacts with the world. All 6 of our children have unique personalities, some have loved being close and super snuggly for a long time, others just have moments they need to check in before rushing off again. Every single one of them has, at times, requested to be held and carried even after they could walk. Sometimes for physical reasons, sometimes for emotional reasons. All of their reasons are valid.

And so far, of our older girls, they each also reach a point where closeness doesn’t require us carrying them and we grow together in developing other ways to connect.

Because it turns out, you can’t spoil them by respecting them, they will eventually not want you to carry them everywhere.

Todllerwearing Beco

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

Last year, just before she was 2 years old, Sugarbaby accompanied us to India, a culture of amazing people that adore children and love to touch young ones. Another introvert (we have a pretty even blend of introverts and extroverts in our home), she quickly learned 2 things: how to clearly say “go away, don’t touch!” and “Beco up!” From her safe position on my back she would offer high fives to the people who wanted to hold her, kiss her, and touch her face. Happy and secure in a place she knows to be safe, she interacted with those we encountered in a way that respected her unique way of being in the world. She runs, dances, jumps, and climbs freely but when she needs to be close or when her little legs are tired from all that exercise and strengthening, up into a carrier she goes on mommy, daddy, or even a big sister. Our long family walks or forays into downtown to go to markets and explore happen with a combination of her walking, running, hoping, and twirling (always twirling, she doesn’t really walk right now, she twirls everywhere) and when she’s tired, on somebody’s back. Occasionally she keeps me company during meal prep on my back when she tires of her spot on a stool.

And from the spot on my back and sometimes on my front she whispers in my ear “I love you mommy.” I don’t know how much longer she’ll ask to “Beco” but I’m willing to as long as she does.

For me the question isn’t why would you wear your toddler or preschooler, the question is why wouldn’t you.

Beco Toddler Two of a Kind

Photo credit: Your Street Photography, Meghann Buswell

7 reasons to wear your toddler/preschooler

Want a shot at winning a carrier just like the one in the photos here? Enter here!
  1. Who doesn’t love snuggling? Besides, science shows us that positive physical touch is soothing and healing at all ages, it can even reduce pain. “To touch can be to give life” – Michelangelo
  2. Not only does touch heal, soothe, and connect, neuroscientists have found that physical human contact activates the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex, which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion. All good stuff!
  3. Touch can reduce stress. Young children often ask to be held when they’re experiencing stress such as fear, anxiety, or uncertainty and for good reason, touch can calm them, lower their heart rate and blood pressure, and of course releases positive hormones such as oxytocin. Wearing a child who is experiencing stress can provide them just the support they need to successfully navigate that stress when they’re ready.
  4. Young children can become overstimulated quickly, having a safe place to work through that overstimulation can mean the difference between a toddler becoming a destructive force in the world around them, having a meltdown of tears and screams, or observing and interacting as they see modeled from their safe perch on a trusted adult’s chest or back.
  5. Running. Need I say more? Parents are all excited when their baby learns to walk but in a no time they realize their excitement was misguided. Walking leads to running. You know what you can’t lose at the children’s museum? THE KID STRAPPED ON YOUR BACK. Sure, you have to let them down from time to time but when their running is running you ragged and reminding them to walk 3,342,438 times has made you horse, a ride on mama’s back (hey, let’s play horsey!) is a relief.
  6. Strollers are awesome, a great tool and we use ours still. But strollers are not always awesome. The view is limited for the rider and sometimes the world just feels like an obstacle course when you’re dealing with one. An assisted piggy back ride with a carrier is much easier to contend with than a stroller in many settings.
  7. They love it. Not always and as they grow in their own desire of “I DO IT!” they will have times they most certainly do not want to be worn. But toddlers and preschoolers aren’t really much bigger than babies and they still love to be close. And that’s the best reason. There are plenty of times in life where we have to tell our children no and deny them what they think they want. Being close, being held, having our touch should never be one of them.

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Do you wear your toddler? Want to but aren’t sure if you should? What are your thoughts on toddlerwearing?

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For a limited time you can enter to win the same carrier pictured in this article by going here.

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