Saturday, October 31, 2009

for the love of slings

baby sleeping in slingI fell in love with the following article, Slings, written by Joylyn Fowler and published as a web exclusive on Mothering. For the love of slings, the descriptive narration really fit in as a follow up to my previous post, Babywearing and Sling Safety.

Photo by Laura Egley Taylor

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babywearing and sling safety

Wearing my children in slings and wraps has been one of my favorite and most memorable parts of being a mother. I love being close to my baby, being able to breastfeed privately and comfortably when on the go, letting my baby sleep when she was tired, having my hands free, being able to more easily focus on two children at once. I love the soft, pretty fabrics, the different designs and styles, the attention that I draw when I wear a pretty sling, wrap or mei tai. I love love love babywearing!

I was somewhat unnerved, however, to see this week's Consumer Reports blog post, Baby deaths raise concerns about Infantino slings, posted on October 26, 2009 by Don Mays. I know that "bag style" baby slings are dangerous as they potentially put the baby in a position that may lead to suffocation, and bag style slings have already been under scrutiny and criticism by babywearing advocates for their poor design. M'Liss Steltzer, RN, who contacted manufacturers of various bag style sings in 2006 regarding their hazards, has a blog where she describes the specific downfalls and dangers of bag style slings, Baby Sling Safety.

What struck me most about Mays' Consumer Report post is that I do not agree with his statement that all slings are potentially dangerous. He argues that as no official safety standards for slings are set in place yet, slings should not be used for babywearing; he even lists them as one of the Five Products NOT to Buy for Your Baby (I will save my arguments for bedsharing for later).

In a previous post, Mays maintains that, despite the seven deaths that occurred in the span of a single year in cribs that were then recalled, the safest place for a baby to sleep is still in a crib. And now he argues that slings are dangerous due to five deaths in four years and thus should not be used. The primary problem with May's reasoning is that he confuses lack of research with danger. If I understand Consumer Reports and their goals correctly, they pride themselves in thorough research of products and objective reviews, and not perfunctory opinions.

Any infant death is tragic. However, four deaths in five years seems relatively low to me, especially when all of the deaths were due to the hazardous design flaw of one particular sling style. How many infants are injured or die from being carried in car seats that are dropped or when strollers tip over? I have never seen an Consumer Reports article that evaluates portable car seats for uses that are not in cars, but they are not advising against this practice. The instances of infant deaths in bag style slings should not imply that all slings are potentially dangerous.

And just because there are no official safety standards set in place or definitive product testing in regards to baby slings, it does not mean that there is not information on the hazards of various sling styles and other baby carriers, as well as information on safer, more comfortable carriers and styles and guidelines for safe babywearing. These resources certainly are available, especially on the internet: The Babywearer is a comprehensive online resource for babywearing, as is Babywearing International. Books that cover babywearing as a safe and established tradition are The Attachment Parenting Book by William Sears and Martha Sears and Babywearing by Maria Blois.

As an experienced babywearing mama, I can tell you that most slings available at popular baby specialty stores and department stores, such as Baby Bejorn, Infantino and Snuggli, are inferior designs, uncomfortable when compared to other ethnically traditional styles, as well as less ergonomic overall in design. Worthwhile brands of slings and wraps, including Maya Wrap, Mamma's Milk, and BabyHawk, tend to be more simple in design, more practical in use, and are available mostly online or in local natural parenting stores; they also come with detailed instructions and warnings about ensuring proper positioning, and are far more comfortable and versatile for you and your baby.

The most important thing to remember is that you are the parent. As a parent, you make the decisions as to what is best for your child. Do your research. Do not depend on manufacturer studies and reviews, but take objective product reviews and personal experiences into account when making your parenting decisions. The tremendous emotional, physiological, and logistical benefits of wearing my children were well worth the effort to learn the proper techniques, and I firmly believe that there is no safer place for my baby to be than on me. Babywearing is a wonderful, rewarding practice for both you and your children.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

weaning, in my humble opinion

Every nursing relationship is different, just like every mother and every baby/toddler/child has different needs. And eventually, along comes the time where the weaning process inevitably begins. Primarily, there are two types of weaning: child-led weaning and mother-led weaning--and both have their unique benefits and downfalls.

Child-led weaning (also referred to as natural weaning and self-weaning) occurs when a child no longer has the nutritional or emotional need to nurse. Children who are truly permitted to self-wean will do so over time, usually over a span of a couple years or more, and most will wean between two and four years old. Some of the important characteristics of a child who weans naturally is that he drinks liquids well from a cup, gets most of his nutrition from solid foods, and gradually reduces the frequency of nursing--and is usually well over 12 months old (sometimes nursing strikes that commonly take place in the first 18 months can be misconstrued as self-weaning).

Mother-led weaning happens when a mother guides her child to wean before the child may be physiologically ready to wean. Mother-led weaning does not have to be abrupt, but can be a gentle, gradual process that follows the child's needs and clues. Weaning also does not have to be all or nothing; when a child is weaned partially, he can keep one or more feedings a day. Partial weaning often happens for nighttime feedings.

There is substantial advice available from various professionals and organizations on weaning age, and quite a bit of it is conflicting. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for 12 months, the World Health Organization and UNICEF both recommend nursing for a minimum of two years. There are countless benefits for extended breastfeeding, however many health care professionals in the United States are not understanding of breastfeeding beyond one year, and many people in our culture may question the motives of a mother who nurses beyond our *cultural* norm of one year (and in many cases, it is a cultural norm of six months, or even six weeks). This attitude may be threatening to many women who choose to nurse beyond a year or who choose to wean naturally. Subsequently, many women will hide their extended nursing relationships from disapproving family and health care professionals--I am guilty of this myself, believe it or not, 'forgetting' to mention on more than one occasion that my oldest was extended nursing.

The practice of mother-led weaning is far more common in the United States, but it is important to acknowledge that, anthropologically and physiologically speaking, the normal, natural weaning age of human children is loosely somewhere between 3 and 6 years of age, give or take various amounts of time based on unique circumstances. The essay, A Natural Age of Weaning, by Katherine Dettwyler, PHD of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A & M University, is a fantastic resource for and comparison of information on natural weaning in human children.

In my humble opinion, there is an awful lot to be said for child-led weaning, and there is nothing wrong with it. However, no one should be judged on how and when they decide to wean as what works for one nursing pair may not work for someone else. After reading book after book, articles and essays, I decided on intending to allow my children to self-wean. I nursed my oldest daughter until she was 3.5 years old, when, after a gradual process, she weaned herself. My youngest, now two years eight months old, is still nursing strong, and I have every intention of allowing her to wean naturally as well. People are often surprised to hear this. However, I now understand how important it is for me to tell people how long my children have nursed. I do it to make extended nursing seem more... well... normal. And more than once, someone has come back with, "So did my son!" or "My daughter is self-weaning her kids, too!"

Numerous resources are available on nursing beyond infancy, extended nursing, biological nursing, and natural weaning, as well as compassionate mother-led weaning. La Leche League International (LLLI) has localized groups who provide breastfeeding support in communities around the world; visit their website for more information or visit their page on Weaning. Another wonderful resource for information on weaning (and breastfeeding in general) is KellyMom; their weaning page covers numerous issues and links to various outside articles.

*Artwork: Nursing Moment by Gina Casamenti-Brooks, from ProMom.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

whose blanket?

I discovered one of the most wonderful children's books, titled Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale , written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jane Dyer. Sophie's Masterpiece is a beautiful tale of a spider named Sophie who spins extraordinarily lovely webs of very fine lace which awe everyone who comes across them. Sophie moves into an old boarding house where she meets a young pregnant woman who is in the process of knitting a layette for her unborn baby. The woman cannot afford to buy any more yarn for a blanket for the baby, so Sophie, now old and frail, weaves a very special blanket for the new arrival. A heartfelt and sentimental story (aka, a tear-jerker), Sophie's Masterpiece is also openly homebirth friendly, as, and the culmination of the story, and without any further description, Sophie describes finally hearing the newborn:
She was down to the farthest corner of the blanket when she heard the cry of the young woman's newborn baby.
Sophie's Masterpiece is now one of my all time favorite picture books, up there with Welcome With Love, written by  Jenni Overend and illustrated by Julie Vivas, The Napping House, written by Audrey Wood and illustrated by Don Wood, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. Sophie's Masterpiece has beautiful artwork, and the (undeclared) homebirth and the knitting/weaving references made my week!

The book also reminded me of all the blankets I have knit with love as gifts for others. I have made a number of baby blankets and one or two full sized throw blankets. Some of the blankets were very simple, some rather complex, but all were fun to make! Blankets are one thing I have a passion for knitting, that's for sure.

The very first blanket I knit was from JoAnne Turcotte's pattern Building Blocks Blanket, which I call Blocks of Love. I knit this blanket for Evelyn when she was two years old. Now, I'm not so crazy about the color or the yarn, but you live and learn, right? This was a very easy beginner pattern to follow.

The second baby blanket I knit is Feather and Fan Baby Blanket, also by JoAnne Turcotte, and was one of the more complex patterns I had followed up to that point! This one was also for Evelyn at two or three years old. I was very pleased with myself, and I call this one Light as a Feather!


With Lion Brand's pattern Diagonal Comfort Blanket, I knit two or three blankets as baby shower gifts, one out of a cotton blend in tan, brown, and green stripes, one out of a lovely yellow and green variegated wool-blend, and one out of Lion Brand Homespun. The Homespun was my favorite yarn to use, as it draped perfectly, plus I love bulky yarns; here is a picture (the only picture of any of them that I can find right now!):


One of my very favorite blankets is featured in the book Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick, and the pattern is Fluffy Afghan or Lap Blanket by Nicky Epstein. I picked up Lion Brand Homespun for this project because I wanted something bulky and fluffy, but I was somewhat doubtful about the texture. I need not have worried, though, because now that the blanket is done, I am very happy with it. It is extremely soft and relatively thick, good for cold winter nights curled up by the fire and is super soft and fluffy!


As a holiday gift for Esme, I knit a Bunny Blanket Buddy from another Lion Brand pattern. This Snuggle Bunny is knit out of light blue cotton and is destined to have a set of eyes, a little nose and whiskers. I still have a couple months to add the finishing touches!


The blanket I am working on now is Evelyn's holiday gift. The pattern is Joseph's Blankie of Many Colors from Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne's book Mason-Dixon Knitting.

When I was knitting the third block on the blanket, Eva came in and asked what I was making. I told her it was a present for her. She kept guessing various odds and ends that it could be… a scarf… a hat… a pocket… a bonnet (she said, “I don’t really want a bonnet, but if you make a bonnet, I would try to like it, so it would be ok, I think”)… a flag… I was laughing my head off! Then Esme came in, took one look at my knitting and said, “Is that a blanket, Mama?” Hahahaha!

I am making headway on the Blanket of Many Colors, but here is the project as of about two weeks ago (I have another complete row of various colors around done now):

I have a queue of projects to keep me busy for a year from now, and three of those projects are blankets for various destinations. It seems like I never knit anything for myself, although hopefully after the holiday season, I will get something done!

Oh yeah, sign up for Ravelry, a free knitting and crochet community, if you are not a member yet, and check out my page to see my latest projects!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

my reading list 2009, part ii

This is a continuation of my reading list for this year. Don't forget to read My Reading List 2009, Part I!

Finished reading:

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, including New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.
I enjoyed the series emensely, especially the character of Jacob Black. It was a fun read, relatively fluffy. However, I find myself embarrassed when customers are gung-ho about reading it and ask for it at work. I sooo want to take them by the shoulders and shake them and yell, "Make sure you think about the negative themes of codependency, abuse, and control that are the predominent themes in these books! They are absolutely glamorized by the author! Talk to your daughters! Read the series with them! Please!" So, yeah, if a customer asks what I think, I tell them. Uh-huh.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (reread) by Jo Rowling AND
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (reread) by Jo Rowling AND
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (reread) by Jo Rowling
In order to prepare for the release of the movie, I decided it would be a good idea to refresh my memory by rereading several books in the series. They are just as enjoyable as they were the first time around and Jim Dale is a wonderful reader!

Fool by Christopher Moore
Remember all the Shakespeare you read in high school and college? Well, it will all come to good use as you read Fool, the vulgar and darkly humorous version of King Lear. Fool is one of the most outrageous books I have ever read. Think Rosenkrantz and Gildestern are Dead, only full of bawdy sex jokes and laugh out loud comedy. Not my favorite Moore novel, but an enjoyable releif, nonetheless. 

Mason-Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Meador
The patterns in this book are straight forward but still somewhat challenging. I love knitting with natural fibers, so the the patterns in this book fit right in--cotton, cotton, cotton! It is easy to adapt many of the patterns to your own personal style and budget. Not only do the patterns rock, but the stories and asides are entertaining, heartfelt, and funny and the photography is colorful and inspirational!

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, abridged (oops!)
I have been waiting for ages for this to come around on audio--and when it finally did, I was already one entire disk in when I realized that it was the abridged version. I was so hooked on the story by then that I did not want to stop, so, in less than three days, I got the gist of the novel. I would love to listen to the entire book one of these days, or another one of her books.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This short novel was an inspirational fable and coming to age story of a young shepherd who decides to sell his flock in order to find his personal legend. The story is rich in spiritual knowledge; I see a lot of The Secret in the development of the main character on his journey (think Rhonda Byrnes, Oprah book club pick). Read by Jeremy Irons, the story telling was unbelievable!

Mother Plays with Dolls...And Finds an Important Key to Unlocking Creativity by Elinor Peace Bailey
Bailey's profound writing and beautiful poetry hits a particular inspirational note, helping many creative doll makers realize the natural therapy of creating, not only dolls, but through the unique gifts we, as women, can discover within ourselves. A fantastic book for those who need to rediscover their inner artist!

The Alchemist: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott AND
The Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
This six book series is a fantastic find! Michael Scott takes an original story and flies with it, taking history and twisting it with mythology into a fast-paced, action-packed, suspenseful modern-day fantasy. The characters are lovable and legendary at the same time. The cliffhangers are atrociously suspenseful, and as only the first three books have been released--the fourth book, The Necromancer, is due out in May 2010--I have temporarily put the series on hold. David let slip that the third book, The Sorceress, has a cliffhanger far worse than The Empire Strikes Back and any of the Harry Potters. I just cannot take that kind of torture.

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness: Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver and Geoff Taylor
Read by Ian McKellen, this is one of the most wonderful storytelling experiences I have ever had. Set over 6000 years ago, the story is undeniably original. My favorite parts revolve around Wolf's point of view, but the descriptions are appropriately rich (I say appropriate as the book is written for those in the 12-14 age group). Torak's adventure is epic in nature, and I fell in love with it not only because Ian McKellen reads it, but because it is an extraordinary coming-of-age story in its own right.

Up Next:

The Sorceress: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman

Lamb by Christopher Moore

Hoot and Scat by Carl Hiassen

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Sunday, October 11, 2009

handmade gifts: round one

'Tis the Season for gift making, what with David and Eva's birthdays last month, oodles of new babies along the way, and the holidays readily approaching! I've got a mega list of projects that I need to complete before the Winter Solstice and two or three for events before then, and I have been knitting like crazy these last six weeks in order to prepare for Handmade Holiday Overload. This year's spread is larger than ever, what with the tight-wad budget we're on at the moment. If I had thought ahead, I would have made some things to sell on Etsy in order to raise money to spend on holiday gifts, but maybe I'll think of that next spring...

I already made and gave David and Eva their handmade birthday items. They each got an adorable pair of knit Pom-Pom Slippers. Overall, I am pleased with how they turned out, though the pictures do not do them justice, I must say.

This pair is Eva's pair, knit with one strand of blue-green acrylic blend and one strand of multi-colored acrylic blend, doubled up for warmth. I added the pom-poms to the top of each slipper for a little pizzaz. 

Now, David's slippers are the same, only larger, and knit with one strand of black and one strand of white acrylic blend. I only added the poms to his slippers to be kind of goofy, but they surprisingly look pretty good!

And here they are, opening and modeling their new slippers at their birthday party!

Esme will be getting a pair of knit slippers for our holiday celebration, and I will be knitting Eva and Esme each a blanket for car traveling. For Eva, I decided to go with a pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting (Gardiner and Shayne, 2006) for a log cabin blanket made of blocks of different colors knit together. I already have a good start on it so far. I am using Peaches'n Cream Cotton Yarn in a variety of colors, and I'm trying to keep the warm colors on one side and the cool colors on the opposite side. Here's a sneak peek:

My father-in-law requested a pair of fingerless gloves and my mother-in-law may also get a pair of slippers. My parents want a knit blanket, and David is getting a knit something from Sexy Little Knits (Paige, 2006). Eva will probably get a pair of mittens and a matching hat/scarf. I am still surfing patterns on Ravelry for ideas for other gifts, but these projects will definitely keep me busy for a while!