Monday, September 29, 2008

Dumping the Pump

After more than a year of sticking my "please do not disturb" post-it on my office door 2 or three times a day, I'm officially retiring my breastpump. I hadn't yet given much thought to when I'd stop pumping when, a week ago, Violet decided she was done drinking breastmilk any way other than straight from the source.

She was never much for the bottle to begin with. We waited to introduce one until she was six or eight weeks old, and Eric's initial overtures with it were not well received. She refused to take a bottle the entirety of my maternity leave, and we worried about whether she'd be more willing once she was in daycare. I went back to work when she was three months old, and getting her settled there went more smoothly than I ever could have hoped. But she still refused to take a bottle. She wasn't upset about it, she just wouldn't eat.

Fortunately, my employer is family-friendly, and supported me as I worked around Violet's preference for nothing but the breast. I'd nurse her there at the daycare immediately before going in to work, and return at lunch time to a happy (but hungry!) baby. After lunch she'd hold out until I returned at the end of the day when we'd sit down and nurse before heading home. She made up for any missed milk when we were together at night.

She stuck with this schedule for a couple of months, while her caregivers at daycare continued to gently encourage her to accept a bottle. Once she did, she never took more than 4 ounces at a time - and usually only an ounce or two. Just enough, it seemed, to stave off hunger for a little while longer.

Since Violet was never particularly attached to the bottle, I probably shouldn't have been so surprised when she decided she was done with it. She refused it from her sippy cup, too, waiting for the milk in the cup to be replaced with water before drinking. Wanting to be certain, I kept pumping all last week while we waited to see if she changed her mind. She didn't. So I packed up the pump, and worked all day through today without taking a break to pump. I could get used to this.

I don't know of any woman who loves to pump, and I certainly didn't, but I'm glad that I did it. I'm happy to have kept her exclusively breast-fed for more than six months despite being separated during the day, and to have continued to supply her with my milk to drink while we were apart as long as I have. She'll continue to get the benefits of breastmilk as we continue nursing whenever we're together; she's shown no sign of losing interest in that! And I'm looking forward to being done with dragging the pump to the office every day, (don't laugh) deleting my freezer stash spreadsheet, and getting back to the best parts of the nursing relationship: when she is snuggled into me and looks up and smiles. Or waves her foot in my face. Those are some of my favorite motherhood moments so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

AP 101

With Attachment Parenting month approaching, I thought I’d provide an Intro to AP of sorts for those who haven’t been formally introduced to the topic, and as a prologue to posts to come. If you’re already an AP’er, you might be more familiar with Dr. Sears’ “7 Baby B’s” than the eight principles articulated by Attachment Parenting International listed below, but you’ll find the two are consistent, and essentially mirror each other. It all points to the same place: nurturing a strong bond with your baby.

Attachment Parenting (“AP”) isn’t a fringe philosophy endorsed only by the patchouli-wearing hippie set. It’s simply a natural approach to parenting that can be observed across centuries and across the globe. Certainly there are multitudes of people practicing attachment parenting without ever having heard it referred to as such. They’re just doing what feels right for their families - and can often be heard to exclaim “I didn’t know there was a name for it!” when they learn of AP itself.

As discussed in this previous post, the premise of AP philosophy is that children thrive not only emotionally, but physically, neurologically, cognitively, and socially when their innate needs are consistently met by loving caregivers, creating the strong bonds of secure attachment. A nice concept, certainly, but a bit abstract on its own. Fortunately, AP advocates like Dr. Sears and API have broken down the overarching idea of AP into several central tenets. API has identified eight principles of attachment parenting:

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. Become emotionally and physically prepared for pregnancy and birth. Research available options for healthcare providers and birthing environments, and become informed about routine newborn care. Continuously educate yourself about developmental stages of childhood, setting realistic expectations and remaining flexible.

2. Feed with Love and Respect. Breastfeeding is the optimal way to satisfy an infant's nutritional and emotional needs. "Bottle Nursing" adapts breastfeeding behaviors to bottle-feeding to help initiate a secure attachment. Follow the feeding cues for both infants and children, encouraging them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Offer healthy food choices and model healthy eating behavior.

3. Respond with Sensitivity. Build the foundation of trust and empathy beginning in infancy. Tune in to what your child is communicating to you, then respond consistently and appropriately. Babies cannot be expected to self-soothe, they need calm, loving, empathetic parents to help them learn to regulate their emotions. Respond sensitively to a child who is hurting or expressing strong emotion, and share in their joy.

4. Use Nurturing Touch. Touch meets a baby's needs for physical contact, affection, security, stimulation, and movement. Skin-to-skin contact is especially effective, such as during breastfeeding, bathing, or massage. Carrying or babywearing also meets this need while on the go. Hugs, snuggling, back rubs, massage, and physical play help meet this need in older children.

5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting. Babies and children have needs at night just as they do during the day; from hunger, loneliness, and fear, to feeling too hot or too cold. They rely on parents to soothe them and help them regulate their intense emotions. Sleep training techniques can have detrimental physiological and psychological effects. Safe co-sleeping has benefits to both babies and parents.

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care. Babies and young children have an intense need for the physical presence of a consistent, loving, responsive caregiver: ideally a parent. If it becomes necessary, choose an alternate caregiver who has formed a bond with the child and who cares for him in a way that strengthens the attachment relationship. Keep schedules flexible, and minimize stress and fear during short separations.

7. Practice Positive Discipline. Positive discipline helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Discipline that is empathetic, loving, and respectful strengthens the connection between parent and child. Rather than reacting to behavior, discover the needs leading to the behavior. Communicate and craft solutions together while keeping everyone's dignity intact.

8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life. It is easier to be emotionally responsive when you feel in balance. Create a support network, set realistic goals, put people before things, and don't be afraid to say "no". Recognize individual needs within the family and meet them to the greatest extent possible without compromising your physical and emotional health. Be creative, have fun with parenting, and take time to care for yourself.

No parent is perfect, and no parent can successfuly implement all of the principles, all of the time. But they provide some great guidelines, and remind us of what kind of parents we aspire to be. Look for posts on how the principles are applied in the everyday lives of AP families - including ours - both here on this blog, as well as over on API Speaks. And feel free to share your own!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fancy, Schmancy

I'm not a professional photographer, and presently I don't have any plans to become one. But I've read enough in online photography forums about copying/theft of photos online that I decided it was worth it to start watermarking my work. I designed the watermark myself in Photoshop - those who know me and my general artistic ineptitude should be impressed! It's shown up in several photos on our Flickr photostream in the past week, but this is its debut on the blog:

Who Says Kids Don't Like Curry?

The first time a friend offered Violet a veggie “puff,” I was puzzled. ”They’re healthy,” she explained. “They’re made from vegetables.” Why not, I wondered, just give her the actual vegetables instead?

Western culture has an unfortunate tendency toward dumbing-down food for kids. Whether it’s for the sake of convenience, or the mistaken assumption that kids won’t like cauliflower, it’s more common to see a toddler munching on gummy fruit snacks than a fresh nectarine. Hoping to encourage an affinity for healthy, whole foods is one reason my husband and I opted to follow an approach I’d read about referred to as “baby-led weaning” (BLW) to introduce Violet to solid food. Instead of offering her the standard rice cereal and purees, we presented her with the real thing from the beginning and let her lead the way. Read more about Violet’s first encounter with solid food (we started with bananas) here.

BLW allows the baby to become acquainted with real food in its true form, exploring tastes and textures at her own pace. Texture is such a pivotal part of the epicurean experience, but purees eliminate that element entirely; learning to love pureed peas may not translate into an affection for the small round version that bursts in the mouth. BLW also gives the baby the chance to choose for herself among what is offered (i,e., polishing off her yam before moving on to the Quinoa with Latin Flavors and black beans or kiwi, above) and to be in control of how much she wants to consume - which helps her learn to follow her body’s signals in determining when to stop eating, rather than relying on the person wielding the spoon to decide for her.

From bananas, Violet ventured to other soft foods like avocado, squash and very ripe pears, and she didn’t stop there. By the time she was a year old, she had developed a pretty sophisticated palate, enjoying all the same dishes we do: from steel cut oats with cinnamon and raisins to Vegetarian Paella, Baked Ziti with Vegetables and Mushrooms, and grilled wild Alaskan Salmon with rosemary roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. In a time crunch, we fall back on her favorite spinach, feta and heirloom tomato omelet.

We can’t take all the credit, of course – Violet’s willingness to sample anything we serve is in large part a product of her personality. But we certainly hope that exposing our daughter to healthy, unprocessed fare at an early age has contributed to her developing a taste for a variety of whole foods, prepared in different ways with different flavors . . . and that her preference for such delicacies will persist, even in the face of the less nutritionally desirable options she’ll no doubt encounter (and occasionally indulge in, as we all do) someday.

Reposted from API Speaks, September 14 2008.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Speaking Out

I started this blog simply as a means of sharing stories and photos with family and friends; its creation inspired by the impending birth of our first baby. It's evolved over the past year to include more posts on many of the parenting or otherwise kid-related subjects we're passionate about. As of today, some of those posts will reach beyond those original Postcard recipients!

I've been invited to become a contributing blogger at API Speaks, the blog for the Attachment Parenting International. My first post, Who Says Kids Don't Like Curry?, hit the API Speaks page this afternoon. I'll repost it here, but I encourage everyone to check out the API Speaks blog, or Attachment Parenting International's website. API "promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents," something Eric and I feel strongly about. October has been designated as Attachment Parenting month, so expect to see more posts on AP subjects coming up, both here on Postcards From the East End, as well as over at API Speaks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Look Who's Walking!

Violet took her first steps a couple of weeks ago, and I was fortunate enough to capture them in a photo! That evening, after returning home from work and daycare, Violet and I had headed outside to enjoy the late-summer sunshine. Camera in tow, of course. As I took a few shots of her on the grass, she practiced standing up on her own, always plopping back down on her well-padded bottom. And then . . . she lifted one tiny foot, and took a wobbly step forward. And then another. I kept snapping for a second or two before flinging the camera aside to scoop her up and give her a great big hug once she sat back down. She's been showing off her stride ever since!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 08, 2008

Perpetual Harvest

I'd never successfully cultivated any form of plant life until this year. Houseplants weren't an option since they would have fallen prey to pets. Plants I attempted to keep at my office inevitably withered from lack of water because I am used to the living things I care for reminding me of their need for sustenance (none of my animals have never been shy about that). But I really wanted this garden to work, and with a little luck - and Eric's greener thumbs - it has!

We've pulled fresh produce from our own backyard all summer long. The first cuttings of spinach mid-May were followed by garden peas and the never-ending supply of summer squash. One of my favorite meals this season was a Barley Risotto with Summer Vegetables, which I was able to put together with almost all home-grown ingredients from our early harvest. (Violet loved this dish too!)

And that was just the beginning. About month ago, we dug up about 40 pounds of potatoes, and plucked a plethora of baby carrots along with them. Today the squash is still coming, the corn is ripe, and the tomato plants (heirloom, roma and grape) are producing almost more than we can keep up with. We're about to begin picking a lot of peppers as well: there's fruit appearing on almost all 10 of our sweet pepper plants, in addition to our 15 or so varieties of hot peppers that are putting out even more.

A couple of weeks ago, we retilled several beds whose crops had exhausted themselves and replanted with some that can withstand the increasing chill in the autumn air: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and more peas, carrots, spinach and salad greens. We're looking forward to continuing to pull more good food from the garden for at least another couple of months. I've also set my sights on preserving what we can't consume immediately - Julie from Chez Artz piqued my interest in canning some staples like tomatoes. That may be a bit ambitious for me, admitted amateur gardener, but I'd like to give it a try!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Doesn't Every Girl Love Horses?

Especially young girls. I know I did, and lunged at every chance to ride, even on those horrible near-mechanical trail rides offered by big commercial stables. It wasn't something I ever had the opportunity to pursue as much as I might have liked to, but having a horse of my own is something I still dream about.

My friend Tamara has realized the dream of owning her own horse so many girls share. Eight of them, actually. At In The Night Farm, Tamara breeds and trains horses for endurance racing: 25, 50, even 100 mile races through mountainous trails. And these horses are no ordinary horses. In addition to Aaruba, the Arabian gelding she is currently racing, Tamara owns and is training seven Barbs for the sport. The Barbs are a rare breed: hot-blooded and compact, built for distance in difficult terrain. Horse lovers don't hesitate to check out her blog - The Barb Wire - to see more of these beautiful creatures and read about the process of preparing them for endurance racing. (Cooks, gardeners, and those generally interested in healthy and sustainable living should also check out her companion blog, Nightlife.)

This weekend I volunteered to crew for Tamara on Sunday as she raced Aaruba at Old Selam, an endurance ride just outside of Idaho City. Saturday afternoon, Eric, Violet and I made a quick trip to ride camp so I could check out the location and Tamara could show me where things were before the race was underway the next morning. This was Violet's first introduction to real, live horses. Like most girls I've ever known, she fell in love at first sight:

The next morning I left Violet with her Dad and I was off to the races. Crewing wasn't complicated; I got to hang out with Aaruba while Tamara changed/ate/dosed Aaruba with electrolytes during holds. I also hauled a few buckets of water and prepared a fine dish of beet pulp for him to fill up on at one point. And of course I took pictures!

As for the race itself, I'll defer to Tamara's account over on The Barb Wire. (More photos can be found in her post there, too.) I enjoyed just being there in the midst of it all - the neighs ringing through ride camp throughout the day, the scent of horses (a distinctive medley of sweat-soaked leather, hay, and okay . . . manure) strong in the dusty atmosphere. It's another world, and one I'd like to visit again soon.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008