Friday, July 24, 2009

Nursing Cover Project and Farewell to a Friend

One of my dearest friends departs today with her family to travel across the country for a few weeks and then, God willing, to leave for long-term missions overseas. I am both very excited for her to finally be going to the country and people her heart longs to reach for the Gospel of Jesus, and very sad to be losing a dear friend whom I won't see again for many years.

Kellie has been a friend of mine from the birth of her first child 5 years ago through the birth of her most recent (4th!) little one, whose birth I had the privilege of attending! She was a support for me when Matthias died and has been a comfort in the years since. She never shies away from mentioning Matthias by name, remembering him and listening when I need to talk. I love her so much for that!

Kellie cooks the most incredible Indian cuisine. There have actually been fights over the leftovers at our Small Group. I will definitely miss her Chicken Biryani!

I have loved seeing Kellie's heart for the "T" people in Asia where she and her family will be going. These are a basically unreached people, with no healthy, reproducing church, less than .05% known Christians, and only one Christian there who knows the language well enough to present the Gospel! They are truly lost, and Kellie passionately wants to share the truth of the Good News of Christ with them.

I am really going to miss Kellie. I'm thankful for technology like email and Skype that will let us stay in touch, but more comforting than that is knowing that (as C.S. Lewis said), "Christians never really say goodbye."


As a parting gift for Kellie, I made her a reversible nursing cover from an online tutorial at Shannon Makes Stuff.

I was looking for orange because I know she loves that color. The multicolor print is from Amy Butler's Belle collection and I bought it at Crafty Planet in Minneapolis. The solid orange was something I found in the quilting section at Joann's.

I really like this pattern. The boning at the top is slightly longer than most tutorials call for and I think that helps it not flop down onto your chest. Also, this is the only pattern I've found that uses a loop and tie for the neck strap instead of D-rings and I like that way more! The neck strap is also wider, which I think is more comfortable. I made Kellie's a little bit bigger than what this tutorial called for, because I know she's like me and would appreciate having any side and tummy rolls covered! Even with a squirmy baby, I think this one will do the trick.

Being reversible makes it a tad bit heavier, but it didn't seem like it would be too hot when I tested it.

I actually liked this style so much that I took apart my nursing cover I made months ago and remade it like this one! I love it.

Kellie, think of me when you nurse your babe! I love you and will miss you!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Natural Born Babies Video

In an effort to educate women about their choices and options during the childbearing years, Birth Matters Virginia - an organization aiming to improve the culture of birth in their state - solicited short videos about evidence-based maternity and delivery care.

You can view all the winning videos here (there's one about the homebirth of a baby named Judah!), but this runner-up was my favorite! I think it really gets out the message of evidence-based maternity care and choices in birth. It's something I could see recommending to pregnant friends!

I especially liked the one couple who talks about how the husband was not on board with their homebirth at first, but then he became this huge advocate ("almost like it was your idea to begin with", the wife says). Reminds me of us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Thoughts On Our Parenting Choices

I read a great article today about how and why we make parenting choices. It's not from a Christian perspective, but I think there is a lot of wisdom to glean from what the author says, nevertheless.

Our Parenting Choices by Pam Leo
Parents seeking information and guidance often find the advice of child experts and parenting books to be confusing and contradictory. One book or expert says to do one thing and another says to do the exact opposite. Parents often ask me, "How do I tell 'good' parenting advice from 'bad' parenting advice? How am I to choose what is best for my child?"

Securing and maintaining a strong bond with our children is our primary work as parents. A secure bond or connection with at least one other human being is the greatest emotional need of every child. It is also the biological key to optimal human development. Parenting advice is relevant only to the extent that it honors our human biology and promotes parenting practices that support secure bonding. When considering any parenting advice we must ask ourselves, "If I follow this advice, will I be providing nurturing, guidance, and limits in a way that maintains a secure bond with my child? Our effectiveness as parents will be in direct proportion to the strength of the connection we have with our child. In any interaction will our words and actions strengthen or weaken our connection with a child? Any advice that promotes parent behaviors that compromise trust is counterproductive and undermines the strength of the parent-child bond.

What would you say is your primary work or responsibility as a parent? As Christians, most of us would hopefully reply something like, "to train up our children in the way they should go; to teach them about Christ and shepherd their hearts towards Him." Our deepest desire for our children is to see them "walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4)

So how do we strive for this goal? Common answers would be family worship and Bible reading, helping our children memorize scripture, teaching them truths about God from a young age, catechism, going to church and Sunday School, etc. These are all essential.

But what about meeting our children's basic emotional need for a secure bond and connection? How important is that in relation to our goal of teaching them the truth about God? I think this is as essential as the items listed above! Our effectiveness in teaching, training and parenting is directly proportionate to the strength of connection and attachment with our children. Our words and actions should strengthen and not undermine that connection and trust. In this way, not only are we nurturing the emotional needs of our children, but we are also teaching them what the LORD is like:

"It was I who taught Israel to walk,
and I took them by the arms...
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ropes of love.
I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down and fed them."

Hosea 11:3-4

"As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him."
Psalm 103:13

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."
Isaiah 66:13

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
Isaiah 40:11

So I would maintain that providing a strong parent-child bond by meeting our childrens' biological, emotional need for high-touch nurturing shouldn't be viewed as a separate "category," much lower on the parenting priority list than teaching our children about God. A child's understanding of God begins before they learn their first Bible verse or prayer. It begins from the time our baby in born! From birth on, our parenting practices can fulfill our child's need for trust, empathy, and affection that will provide a foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships. We undermine our attempts to point our children to God if we have not nurtured a trusting, secure relationship with them from infancy on.

Not high-touch, connected parenting or daily Bible studies or perfect church attendance will guarantee that our children will love the Lord or walk in the truth - that is the work of the Holy Spirit! But how we teach and nurture and parent obviously really matters!


A couple great resources:
Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel
"Parents in our post-modern world ... have tried countless parenting books on the market telling moms and dads what to do and how to do it. Many of these are rigid, fear-based books that leave a large number of parents feeling directionless.

Kimmel recommends creating a grace-based home environment that allows children to meet their full potential, to parent children in the same way God parents us. The result - spiritually strong children who grow up with a sense of calm and a heart full of purpose and confidence.

Grace Based Parenting is not another manual full of impossible standards; rather it is a new map for learning to see ourselves and our children through God’s limitless tenderness – to raise our kids the way God raises us. This thoughtful, profound and compassionate message presents a truly liberating way to nurture a healthy family. As we embrace the grace He offers, we begin to give it – creating a sound foundation for growing morally strong and spiritually motivated children.

Kimmel says Christians frequently believe that the battle for a child’s heart and soul is fought on the outside—with rigid rules and boundaries—when in fact just the opposite is true. He underscores the importance of communicating the unconditional love that Christ offers and affirming this timeless message of grace to one’s family. Kimmel asserts that this “radical” mode of parenting will meet the three essential needs in kids’ lives: for security, significance and strength. He assures parents that these needs can be met with grace-baced love, purpose and hope."

Mothering By Grace
Gentle Christian Mothers

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Me and the Kids

Back in June Richard took a trip to Florida for his brother's wedding. Because he would be gone for a few days, I thought we should send some pictures of his beloved family with him, lest he get too lonely.

My camera doesn't have one of those little screens you can flip around so you can see where you're aiming when you're pointing the camera at yourself, so I had to guess.

Grace and I have perfected "smiling for the carmera" but apparently Moses and Judah have not. I'm not sure what Moses is thinking, but it's not really what I had in mind when I said, "okay, everybody smile!" At least Judah had it somewhat figured out.

I thought if I tried to take some of just the kids, I would end up with at least one good one. But by the time Moses decided to actually smile, Judah had had enough and was sick of the whole thing. So no perfect picture, but quite a few that accurately captured the family Richard was leaving behind!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Babywear?

I love babywearing. I love the convenience, the closeness and the comfort it provides for me and my little ones. There are so many reasons to wear your baby, and in thinking about what to write for this post, I couldn't get all my thoughts in order - there's so much to say! So instead I decided to share two really good articles on the subject. I hope you find it as cool and interesting as I do!

10 reasons to Wear Your Baby
by Laura Simeon, MA, MLIS
1. Wearing a baby is convenient

When we carry a baby in a sling, we can walk around freely and not have to worry about negotiating steps, crowds or narrow aisles with a stroller. Plastic "baby buckets" and removable car seats are heavy and awkward for parents, babies often look uncomfortable, and they are kept at knee level. A sling can block out excess stimuli when breastfeeding a distractible baby, and it allows for discreet nursing in public places. A sling can also double as a changing pad, blanket, or cushion when away from home. I’ve found my sling especially handy when negotiating busy airports with a small child and several bags!

2. Wearing a baby promotes physical development.

When a baby rides in a sling attached to his mother, he is in tune with the rhythm of her breathing, the sound of her heartbeat, and the movements his mother makes - walking, bending, and reaching. This stimulation helps him to regulate his own physical responses, and exercises his vestibular system, which controls balance. The sling is in essence a "transitional womb" for the new baby, who has not yet learned to control his bodily functions and movements. Research has shown that premature babies who are touched and held gain weight faster and are healthier than babies who are not1. Mechanical swings and other holding devices do not provide these same benefits.

3. Babies worn in slings are happier.

Studies have shown that the more babies are held, the less they cry and fuss2. In indigenous cultures where baby-wearing is the norm, babies often cry for only a few minutes a day - in contrast to Western babies, who often cry for hours each day. Crying is exhausting for both the baby and his parents, and may cause long-term damage as the baby’s developing brain is continually flooded with stress hormones.3 Babies who do not need to spend their energy on crying are calmly observing and actively learning about their environment. Baby-wearing is especially useful for colicky or "high need" babies, who are far happier being worn, but placid, content babies and children will also benefit greatly from the warmth and security of being held close.

4. Baby-wearing is healthy for you!

It can be challenging for new mothers to find time to exercise, but if you carry your baby around with you most of the day or go for a brisk walk with your baby in her sling, you will enjoy the dual benefits of walking and "weightlifting". A long walk in the sling is also an excellent way to help a tired but over-stimulated child fall asleep.

5. Toddlers appreciate the security of the sling.

Slings are usually associated with infants, but they can be very useful for toddlers as well; most slings accommodate children up to 35 or 40 pounds. The world can be a scary place for toddlers, who feel more confident when they can retreat to the security of the sling when they need to do so. Toddlers often become over-stimulated, and a ride in the sling helps to soothe and comfort them before (or after!) a "meltdown" occurs. It can be very helpful in places like the zoo, aquarium, or museum, where a small child in a stroller would miss many of the exhibits.

6. Baby-wearing helps you and your baby to communicate with each other.

The more confidence we have in our parenting, the more we can relax and enjoy our children. A large part of feeling confident as a parent is the ability to read our baby’s cues successfully. When we hold our baby close in a sling, we become finely attuned to his gestures and facial expressions. Many baby-wearing parents report that they have never learned to distinguish their baby’s cries because their babies are able to communicate effectively without ciying! Every time a baby is able to let us know that she is hungry, bored or wet without having to cry, her trust in us is increased, her learning is enhanced, and our own confidence is reinforced. This cycle of positive interaction enhances the mutual attachment between parent and child, and makes life more enjoyable for everyone.

7. Slings are a bonding tool for fathers, grandparents, and other caregivers.

Slings are a useful tool for every adult in a baby’s life. It makes me smile when I see a new father going for a walk with his baby in a sling. The baby is becoming used to his voice, heartbeat, movements and facial expressions, and the two are forging a strong attachment of their own. Fathers don’t have the automatic head-start on bonding that comes with gestation, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make up for this once their baby is born. The same goes for babysitters, grandparents and all other caregivers. Cuddling up close in the sling is a wonderful way to get to know the baby in your life, and for the baby to get to know you!

8. Slings are a safe place for a child to be.

Instead of running loose in crowded or dangerous places, a child in a sling is held safe and secure right next to your body. Slings also provide emotional safety when needed, so that children can venture into the world and become independent at their own pace.

9. Slings are economical.

Slings cost far less than strollers, front-carriers or backpacks. Many mothers consider the sling to be one of their most useful and economical possessions. Inexpensive used slings can be found in consignment and thrift stores, and new ones can be bought for about $25 -$50 (U.S.) not bad for an item many parents use daily for two years or more!

10. Baby-wearing is fun.

Who doesn’t love to cuddle a precious little baby? And when your baby is older, having her in the sling makes conversations easier and allows you to observe her reactions to the wonders of the world around her. It’s also fun for baby, because when she is up at eye level, other adults notice and interact with her more. Your child will feel more a part of your life when she is in her sling, and you will find yourself becoming more and more enchanted with this special little person.

1 "Current knowledge about skin-to-skin (kangaroo) care for pre-term infants". J Perinatol. 1991 Sep;11(3):216-26.
2Hunziker, U.A. and R.G. Barr (1986). "Increased carrying reduces infant crying: A randomized controlled trial". Pediatrics. 7:641-648.
3Powell, A. "Harvard Researchers Say Children Need Touching and Attention", Harvard Gazette.
By William Sears, MD

If SIDS is basically a disorder of respiratory control and neurological immaturity (and I believe it is), anything that can help a baby's neurological system mature overall will lower the risk of SIDS. That's exactly what babywearing does.

Something good happens to babies who spend a lot of time nestled close to nurturing caregivers. Here's why.

1. Babywearing gives a vestibular connection.

Babywearing exerts a regulatory effect on the baby, primarily through the vestibular system. In the womb, the baby's very sensitive vestibular system is constantly stimulated because a fetus experiences almost continuous motion. Babywearing provides the same kind of three-dimensional stimulation and "reminds" the baby of the motion and balance he enjoyed in the womb. The rhythm of the mother's walk, which baby got so used to in the womb, is experienced again in the "outside womb" during babywearing.

Activities such as rocking and carrying stimulate the baby's vestibular system. Vestibular stimulation is a recently appreciated tool for helping babies breath and grow better, especially premature infants—those at highest risk of SIDS.

Babies themselves recognize that they need vestibular stimulation; infants deprived of adequate vestibular stimulation often attempt to put themselves into motion on their own, with less efficient movements, such as self-rocking. Researchers believe that vestibular stimulation has a regulating effect on an infant's overall physiology and motor development.

2. Motion regulates babies.

Motion calms babies. Carried infants show a heightened level of quiet alertness, the behavioral state in which infants best interact with and learn from their environment. Researchers believe that during the state of quiet alertness, the child's whole physiological system works better.

3. Carried babies cry less.

Parents in my practice commonly report, "As long as I wear her, she's content!" Parents of fussy babies who try babywearing relate that their baby seems to forget to fuss.

This is more than just my own impression. In 1986, a team of pediatricians in Montreal reported on a study of ninety-nine mother-infant pairs, half of whom were assigned to a group which was asked to carry their babies for at least three extra hours a day and were provided with baby carriers. The parents in this group were encouraged to carry their infants throughout the day regardless of the state of the infant, not just in response to crying or fussing, although the usual practice in Western society is to pick up and carry the baby only after the crying has started. In the control, or non-carried group, parents were not given any specific instructions about carrying.

After six weeks, the infants who received supplemental carrying cried and fussed 43 percent less than the non-carried group.

Anthropologists who travel throughout the world studying infant-care practices in other cultures agree that infants in babywearing cultures cry much less. In Western culture we measure a baby's crying in hours per day, but in other cultures, crying is measured in minutes. We have been led to believe that it is "normal" for babies to cry a lot, but in other cultures this is not accepted as the norm. In these cultures, babies are normally "up" in arms and are put down only to sleep—next to the mother. When the parent must attend to her own needs, the baby is in someone else's arms.

In addition to the physiological effects of vestibular stimulation, there appear to be psychological benefits. Sling babies seem to show a feeling of rightness, enabling them to adapt to all that is unfamiliar about the world to which they are now exposed, lessening their anxiety and need to fuss. As baby senses mother's rhythmic breathing while worn tummy-to-tummy and chest-to-chest, the babywearing mother acts as a regulator of her infant's biology.
My Most Basic Answer to the Question, "Why Babywear?" is:
• Babies want - and need - to be held A LOT.
• You and I want to have our hands free in order to accomplish all the things we need to do every day.
• Babywearing = Problem Solved!