Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week: Nursing in a changing climate

I'm celebrating the practice and gift of nursing everywhere, everyday.  To highlight World Breastfeeding Week, I've entered's contest "Blog about Breastfeeding."  Here is the link - join me!  

This year, the focus of World Breastfeeding Week is on the value of peer counselors.  While I distinguish person to person contact from internet-mediated contact, I have to add that during my own challenges in being a new parent, the writings of many, many peers encouraged and educated me and inspired me to add my own voice to the community.  Books, friends, and - yes - blogs kept me company, answered questions, urged new directions of thought, and diversified the pool of perspectives available to me.

Another new medium to open my parenting experience outward is online coursework through and  I can do this while nursing and holding my sleeping darling for one of her naps a few times a week.  Lectures, readings, and discussion boards connect me to a community of learners all over the world.  

A course in Climate Change hit home as a nursing mother.  I was deeply impressed with the quality of resources and the measured tone of the professors.  (It is being offered again this fall on Coursera.  Search for: Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations; Dr. Sarah Burch and Sara Harris.)

During the course, I learned about the impacts on health and community resiliency that climate change is already causing (4 minute video - warning: brief graphic imagery of human suffering at end of clip - see:; if you want to read about what scientists have found, see this report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:  

As a parent, I immediately ask how climate change will increase the vulnerability of young children and nursing mothers.  Clean water scarcity, increased disease transmission, conflict over changing resources, disrupted agriculture, and more violent weather each directly impact the ability of breastfeeding mothers to provide for themselves and their families.  These are some of the perennial challenges that are now escalating in a changing climate.

Resources I take for granted - the glass of water I drink from the tap, the safety of my living room rocking chair, the safety and civility in my city and nation, the healthy food I build my milk with - are supporting my work of parenting, yet their lack is not uncommon in our mothering community.  As described by many, including Sheridan Bartlett in the article "Climate change and urban children: impacts and implications for adaptation in low- and middle-income countries" (published in Environment and Urbanization October 2008 vol. 20 no. 2 501-519), extremely stressful events and conditions can impact a mother's milk supply.  Her milk is her children's best resource to guard against the primary risks to young ones in the face of those challenges described above: diarrheal diseases and malnutrition.  Yet the challenges that increase those risks for her kids also put the nursing mother at risk.

A stunning and simple fact I learned in the course is that carbon dioxide, the gas that we've been increasing in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and clearing vegetation from great swaths of land, is a well-mixed gas that spreads quickly and evenly over the globe.   This is a gas that traps Earth's heat like a down jacket traps our own.  The more we add, the less Earth is able to shed heat.  Well-mixed means the molecules coming from my stove, my old Honda, my heater are arriving daily to places I've never been, but where people are attempting to make their lives as I am...nursing, working, cooking, learning.   There is no pretending that the impact of my choices stays with me and my neighborhood.

These are all recycled ideas, knowledge I'd gained in school years before in some cases, realizations I'd made or others had shared.  Somehow, learning them now, while my baby drinks from my breast, makes it settle in my mind differently.   She has changed my life, and she has brought the world right up close to my heart in a way I hadn't yet achieved.

Compassion is more tangible, now.  Community has a face.  Climate change is not our future but our present challenge.  And something I can do for my mothering community is to take responsibility for how my actions here support and increase families' resiliency in this one world we share.

In completing my coursework, I learned that many cities have completed Climate Action Plans.  These describe solid ways we can help support each other worldwide by taking local action.  Check one out, and remember that the good we do travels fast and evenly and shares the strengths of one parent with another just like you.

Click on a link to a city below to read their climate action plan:

and many more......

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Good job!"

Check out this thread about Praise & Elimination Communication on  It's something we have discussed a fair bit as a couple, not just regarding EC but all kinds of other skills and behaviors.  I have read that one way we can teach our children patience, encourage intrinsic motivation, and strengthen productive risk-taking is to praise efforts and work rather than focus on results (the "good job" comments).  I will post the reference to my reading when I find it in my stack; nevertheless, it makes a lot of sense to both of us, so we've begun to practice this kind of praise already just to get ourselves in the habit.  When others see our girl use the potty and say, "Good potty!" I feel conflicted - grateful they are supportive, yet concerned about the angle on the praise.  It will be interesting, as we go along, to figure out how and when to have the conversation about that particular activity and appropriate praise, since it seems like both the pottying and the process vs. product praise goes against most people's experience, including mine for the most part.

What do you think?

Downward Dog Nursing

Over the past few months, our baby has become a versatile nurser!  I link to the definition of "versatile" because, in checking to see if I used the word appropriately, I found I had used just the right word!  My goodness, this kid changes readily, turns with ease from one activity to another, and can move herself all over the place - up, down, laterally, flexibly.  

Crawling to nurse

When she turned about 6 months, she could sit unaided quite well and learned to crawl distances.  Normally, we read about how this new behavior changes babyproofing requirements and stimulates new interests.  I hadn't considered how it might change our nursing experience.  Suddenly, when she wanted to nurse, she could look over to me and move herself closer!  It was only a few days before she could then crawl over and into my lap.  Whereas before, of course she made her desire known with eye contact, reaching, or nuzzling, now she could also stop her own activity and come to me.  When through, she could crawl away to resume play.  What a difference!  My own emotional reactions to the transition surprised me; I felt excited, amused, disoriented, relieved, and hesitant.  

We nurse on demand, and our baby likes to eat and cuddle frequently.  It has become like my own frequent habits - pulling hair from my face, washing hands, drinking water, adjusting my posture, nursing our baby.  When we changed the rhythm and way we nursed, my mind needed to adjust.

Downward Dog Nursing

With her new skills and abilities in movement quickly came highly versatile positions for nursing!  The first was the lap sit nurse.  Oh man, this was great for me!  She could come to me, sit upright with legs around my belly, and nurse upright - while I ate my own dinner!  No one needed to wait to eat anymore.  (Of course, now that she is interested in my food, this has gotten tricky at times...)

At about 6.5 months, she could pull herself up to standing, and you know what that meant for nursing.

With increased leg musculature and better balance, the crouch nursing session ensued.  If I were sitting on the floor playing with her, she would crawl over, pull herself to a stand on me, then crouch to nurse for as long as she could.  Hilarious!

Lying down, she has perfected the "downward dog nurse" as we call it.  Starting in a side lie, she flips over to her belly (still nursing) and raises her hips high up ("helium pelvis", our yoga instructor used to call it) in a lovely pose.  I laughed at myself when I realized I had checked to see if her heels were on the floor - something my legs have never flexed to do.

The changes we have made in nursing mirror the changes in our growth together.  Don't you find that as transitions occur, we rarely mark the turning point in our minds?  I look back and am not quite sure when I could think of something other than helping my infant to nurse during feeding, but at some point, oversupply diminished and we both got the process down pat, and I started reading books again. That was months ago.  Now I've got an acrobatic nursling and am loving every day of our lives, wondering what the next transitions I'll look back upon will be.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

We begin the New Year feeling blessed to be parents.  Life is so different for us now in ways we could not have imagined, although we tried.  Watching our daughter wake from the night or from a nap brings a smile or laughter to us every time; this is made even better by not having known that these moments were so full of sweetness and interest.  Feeling her muscles grow as she wiggles, bears her weight on her little bowed legs, and reaches for interesting things around the house is both satisfying and entertaining!  Hearing all the noises she's discovered she can make has been a trip in itself.  She is so creative with her voice.

Check out the monthly updates; we update that page regularly to reflect on and share our learning.  Feel free to post questions or comments for discussion on this page anytime.

Happy New Year!